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FROM FIRST AND SPRING

We Could Have Easily Listed a Thousand

An Editor's Note

August 13, 2006|Rick Wartzman

Kirk Kerkorian, said to be the wealthiest person in Los Angeles, didn't make the cut. Neither did former Mayor Richard Riordan.

It's amazing how quickly 100 slots evaporate in trying to select the most powerful people in a region where so many have deep pockets, bold visions, sharp elbows and big dreams (The West 100, page 16).

We started with about 350 names. They were compiled by magazine staffers over a couple of months based on conversations with reporters and editors at every department of the newspaper and sources all over the Southland. Then the fun began: A group of us (including some of The Times' top editors) met and winnowed the list, guided by a few basic principles.

First, we defined the powerful as those having influence over the way we live as Southern Californians.

By keeping our lens local, we wound up eliminating many in L.A.'s glitziest industry--Hollywood. Our logic was this: Guys such as Sumner Redstone are titans in town. But their most important sphere of influence is the culture at large, and that extends to Des Moines and Shanghai and a zillion other places across the country and around the globe. For our regional-centric purposes, their power was too diffuse.

We tried to cast a wide net, considering candidates from the worlds of politics, the arts, media, sports, business, health, the environment and beyond. But we limited our geography to the five-county area--Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura (which explains the absence of someone such as San Diego's Irwin Jacobs).

Being wildly rich wasn't enough to snare a spot. (Look at Kerkorian, who resides in Beverly Hills but whose imprint can be seen more in Las Vegas than in L.A.)

Even being rich and philanthropic wasn't enough; lots of well-heeled folks write checks. In the case of the affluent, the key was whether they are purposefully directing their money to help shape the local landscape.

Timeliness was a factor as well. Some veteran power brokers, such as Riordan and Orange County's George Argyros, have lately been less active here than usual. We also nixed those without an established track record, such as Michael Govan, the new director of the L.A. County Museum of Art.

Once The West 100 was picked, we faced an equally challenging task: ranking the Top 10.

Much of our discussion centered on No. 1 versus No. 2. The nod toward Donald Bren over Eli Broad boiled down to a couple of things. For one, in the arenas in which Broad has made a mark in L.A.--education, the arts, the revival of downtown--others also wield considerable influence; Bren's power in Orange County is essentially unrivaled. For another, much of Broad's central city renaissance has yet to happen; Bren's O.C. is largely realized.

Since making the choice, some of us have joked that Broad, who has expressed an interest in buying The Times, may not want to acquire us anymore. Then again, I figure he might be more eager than ever to purchase the paper--just so he can fire those who labeled him No. 2.

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