DON KARCHER: In 1985, Don Karcher, 57, president and chief operating officer at Carl Karcher Enterprises Inc., of Anaheim, will face his stiffest test yet since joining his brother Carl's company 30 years ago. Don is believed to be within a year or two of moving into the chief executive's seat. Although Don runs the company on a day-to-day basis, he is yet unproven as a leader who can successfully develop and implement longer-term changes at the company's 400 Carl's Jr. restaurants. Those are attributes Carl, 67, is expected to closely measure in Don during 1985. How Don Karcher handles possible belt-tightening in 1985 could determine whether he is ready to fill Carl's shoes.
DAVID S. TAPPAN JR.: No one batted an eye when Tappan was named chairman and chief executive of Fluor Corp. following the death in September of his close friend and mentor, J. Robert Fluor. But the snowy-haired, 32-year Fluor veteran faces a tough challenge in his first full year at the helm. His company, jolted by a two-year slump in the global construction business, is struggling to adjust to a new world of smaller, more diverse projects. Tappan, 62, is his company's most aggressive salesmen; he travels constantly, logging about 300,000 miles a year. Tappan's ties to China, where he was born to missionary parents, should serve Fluor well in 1985. Fluor recently announced a joint venture with China's largest petrochemical company. Tappan has pledged that his company will be a major player in China's industrial revolution.
VIRGINIA McDERMOTT: In the pharmaceutical business, like most others, it's lonely for women at the top. In November when McDermott became director of operations for Allergan Pharmaceuticals in Irvine, she joined the small number of women who hold top management positions in the industry. In her new job, McDermott oversees several divisions, as well as $45-million worth of new construction. Allergan, a leading eye care company, is a subsidiary of SmithKline Beckman Corp. of Philadelphia. Last year Allergan unsuccessfully tried to acquire a contact lens maker, International Hydron Corp. of Woodbury, N.J., but it still plans to move into this niche. McDermott oversees a fast-growing operation, which tripled its research and development effort during the last three years. McDermott will be busy; her appointment schedule is booked through March.
TERRY E. VAN GORDER: Although Disneyland is sure to receive a lot of press in 1985 during its 30th birthday celebration, nearby Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, and in particular Van Gorder, its recently named park president, may be the ones to watch. Van Gorder, 50, is the first person outside the 11-member Knott family to be named park president. But so far the Knott family has retained chief executive powers. Van Gorder, former president of Magic Mountain, is widely recognized within the theme park industry for his innovative ideas, such as Knott's Camp Snoopy. In 1984, Van Gorder drew up the first master plan ever for the 64-year-old theme park. Knott family members have hinted that a new themed area proposed by Van Gorder is on the drawing boards, and the outcome of that plan could determine his future at Knott's.
TED D. NELSON: Surely one of the most fascinating Orange County executives to watch in 1985 is Nelson, chairman and chief executive of Winn Enterprises, the Fullerton-based food company and savings and loan operator. Nelson, 34, has overseen the company's sometimes confusing shift from a real estate investment trust to a multifaceted food company, intent on growth through acquisition. "We're a difficult company for people to understand," Nelson acknowledged in a recent interview. But, he said, that confusion will be less pronounced in 1985. He has said that in 1985 Winn will try to persuade Wall Street--where it is a virtual unknown--that it is a viable company worthy of investors' notice.
CHARLES STRAUCH: MSI Data Corp. wasn't looking for a laid-back executive comfortable with the status quo when it installed Strauch, 49, in its president's office last July. It was time to restore some hustle to the 17-year-old Costa Mesa company that had steadily slid from its dominance in the industry it pioneered for portable, electronic inventory-counting devices. Strauch, an aggressive, no-nonsense taskmaster with a record of resuscitating faltering electronics companies, started shaking things up at MSI immediately and promises to continue the job this year. Strauch expects his efforts to start showing this year. "A new president has to produce clear results within two years," he said after taking the job. "My board should expect results from me within a year."