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12 people to watch

August 31, 2006

Take a look at the faces behind the facts, the figures and maybe even a few fights

Washington Business Journal - January 2, 2004
Business stories are people stories.

A seemingly obvious observation, yes, and a statement readers of Washington Business Journal know better than anyone.

Ask the unenlightened, however, and they'll likely tell you business stories are numbers. They're stock prices and the Dow and any mix of GNPs and indicators.

Lucky for us, we in Greater Washington know better. And we at Washington Business Journal keep our eyes open for you, so you're the first to know who's doing what, when, where, with how much money (their own and others') and, almost always, we let you know way before they do it, so you get the privilege of foresight over blind acceptance.

Some in our annual People to Watch issue will be obvious choices because of headlines they made in 2003; others we hope will come as a surprise and pique your curiosity as they have piqued ours.

We also, as always, let you know the latest about some of the people who made the "to watch" slots last year, just to see where they've been, what they're up to now and if they did what we thought -- or, maybe hoped -- they'd do.

Keep watching. We will, too.



1. Ted Carter

President and CEO, National Capital Revitalization Corp.

He'll be on the front lines of the coming showdown on the waterfront.

Ted Carter was on the hot seat even before he started his job as president of the National Capital Revitalization Corp. in the first few minutes of 2003.

And he'll stay there this year.

The man who salvaged Mayor Tony Williams' bumbling re-election campaign had been hired to re-energize the young economic development corporation --you know, the one that had three chief executives in less than a year and faced considerable pressure from the D.C. Council and local developers to get results.

NCRC's board made Carter their man because they liked his take-charge leadership style so much they felt they could live with the fact that Carter had never done a real estate deal.

Carter's selection left others in the real estate industry scratching their heads over why the board picked someone without a real estate background to manage hundreds of millions of dollars worth of city-owned land.

Carter says he's all about results. He's laid out goals, made aggressive time lines and, for the most part, stuck to them. Since Carter took over, NCRC ( has lined up deals for almost all of its Columbia Heights properties, hired a real estate and business development manager and rebid the highly sought-after wax museum site after a deal with Horning Bros. to redevelop the downtown site fell apart early last year.

But the big reason to watch: Entering 2004, the Williams administration wants to establish a development authority charged with redeveloping the entire Anacostia River waterfront, including the Southwest waterfront -- yes, the crown jewel of NCRC's property portfolio.

Can NCRC work with the new authority, or will it have its biggest project wrested away by the new entity? Can Carter fend off a power grab and keep NCRC's place at the table -- and in the money? [Sean Madigan]


2. Lynne Breaux

Executive Director, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington

The attacked won't take it lying down.

This is a woman with a lot on her plate, but you won't hear her complaining.

Unassuming and disarming, Lynne Breaux heads up an organization that works to please a lot of constituencies, but most importantly, restaurant owners and workers.

All of this while trying to fend off ridiculous regulations and rising taxes.

Breaux believes that a society owes much to its restaurants -- and to those who run them. She understands the challenges and hardships -- and the rewards -- for the 500 members of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington ( She was owner-operator of Tunnicliff's Tavern on Capitol Hill for 13 years.

She is also very familiar, and at home, with the legislative processes on the Hill, as she has been tapped to testify before Congress on a variety of industry-related topics.

It's only been two years since she arrived on the scene, but this New Orleans native seems to have found a perfect home for her passion.

Restaurant Week was started in the Washington market in November 2001 during Breaux's tenure as interim executive director, and since has grown to a twice-yearly event. The event, now hugely popular with diners, was introduced to ignite sales after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With bigger and bigger guns being pointed at the restaurant industry from every direction, she seems ready for the inevitable showdowns.

There's that pesky smoking issue that D.C. will have to deal with in 2004. And the "fat bill," which would require restaurants to include nutritional information on their menus. Changing the alcoholic beverage laws is also a topic that likely will rear its ugly head again next year.

There's one thing you should know:

With Breaux at the helm, this industry isn't going down without a fight. [Eleni Kretikos]


3. Johnathan Rodgers


He'll lead two media giants in their bid to take on BET.

The top local marketing and media story of 2003 also holds plenty of potential impact for the coming year. Cable giant Comcast and urban-broadcasting giant Radio One came together to form TV One, a cable network that will target black and urban viewers.

Comcast and Radio One have stuck to their story that TV One is not a competitor to District-based BET. Either way, the partners' deep pockets and broadcast experience stand to make a considerable impact on Greater Washington, where they have been searching for a headquarters for the broadcasting startup.

Ultimately, the high-profile network could funnel millions of dollars into the local production community and, competitors or not, give the Viacom-owned BET a run for its money.

The local leader of this aggressive push, Johnathan Rodgers, will be competing with his old employer.

Rodgers worked for Viacom's CBS for 20 years in a variety of executive positions, including president of the network's highly profitable TV stations division. After that, he spent six years as president of Discovery Networks, growing the operation from two channels worth $1 billion to a 14-channel $20 billion division.

Rodgers has been furiously selling the cable network to advertisers, trying to convince them they can reach a largely untapped audience in more than 20 of the top 25 markets.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, Radio One and minority investors have pledged $130 million to build TV One. But to be successful, Rodgers will have to convince other cable operators, such as Time Warner, to carry the network as well.

Local officials hope the new network will create new jobs for the area. TV One already has said it will locate its headquarters in Silver Spring, near Rodgers' old Discovery stomping grounds, or in the District. [Ben Hammer]


4. Dick Baird

CEO, Giant Food

A change at the top could signal future path for the home-grown grocer.

Throughout the second half of 2003, speculation abounded CEO Dick Baird would retire from Giant Food.

Going into 2004, the talk will continue.

Though official comment from Giant denies the speculation, the facts are the facts. Parent Royal Ahold has said it is looking at combining some of Giant Food's administrative and managerial functions with sister grocery chain Stop & Shop in Quincy, Mass. Analysts have said it would make the company more efficient.

Such a consolidation is likely to mean the loss of jobs at Giant Food, the dominant supermarket group in the Washington region.

It also wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

Royal Ahold has made similar moves to streamline operations at four of its six U.S.-based subsidiaries: between South Carolina's Bi-Lo and Bruno's Supermarkets in Alabama, and between Giant Food Stores of Pennsylvania and Tops Markets in New York.

Industry insiders also point to the reputation of Marc Smith, the strong and well-regarded chief executive at Stop & Shop.

Landover-based Giant ( maintains there have been only preliminary meetings and "nothing is on the table," says Giant spokesman Barry Scher.

Royal Ahold has had other issues this year, perhaps most notably the financial troubles at U.S. Foodservice, which is being investigated by federal regulators. These problems cost its parent company more than $3 billion in 2003 and are expected to have a negative impact on earnings in 2004.

Last month at Giant Food, store managers were told to cut back on employee hours and drop prices on some merchandise. Giant says the move was routine.

All this adds up to mean the hometown favorite could wind up wandering its own aisles in search of a new direction.

And so many eyes rest on the man at the top. [Eleni Kretikos]


5. Ted Leonsis

Majority owner, Washington Capitals

Caps are losing (games and money), and the NHL is facing a strike in the fall, which may ice a whole season.

You never saw a happier bunch of hockey fans than those who swarmed Ted Leonsis back in 2001 as he walked the concourse during Washington Capitals games.

They saw him as the savior who had delivered the Caps from the depths of the NHL standings in just one season. Leonsis started with a tech approach to community relations and threw in a seven-year contract with one of the league's best scorers. He answered every fan e-mail. The Caps ( finished first or second in their division every season since Leonsis became owner. He was on fire.

So why, five seasons later, do 34 percent of respondents to a survey give the America Online executive an "F" for his efforts?

Easy: The Caps are losing.

Even if the Caps were winning, Leonsis would have to steer clear of a number of cracks in the ice heading into 2004.

First, you have your basic P&L issues. The Capitals, along with most of Major League Hockey, are losing money.

"The Caps are looked at as poster child of what's wrong with the league," says majority owner Leonsis. "We've grown revenues dramatically, but for every dollar we've increased, we've paid out $1.50 in expenses."

Then there's the season ticketholder thaw. At one point, Leonsis grew that number to 11,000 from 2,900, but now, season tickets number 10,200.

And of course there's the small matter of the squad adjusting to a new coaching philosophy since the mid-December firing of head coach Bruce Cassidy.

But the big problem facing Leonsis and partners in ownership group Lincoln Holdings is a shortened or canceled 2004-05 season. The NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires in September, and owners and players have miles between them.

"My greatest disappointment is with all that uncertainty in the future," Leonsis says. "I want us to be focused on the today because that's what we can control. To date, this season has not gone well. While there's still time, it's disappointing.

"What I've been preaching to the players is, 'Enjoy it. This is the best times of our lives. Go out, enjoy the game, play as a team.' I can't control it, the players can't control it, [but] you can control what happens on your next shift." [Susyn Schweers]


6. Michael Chasen

CEO, Blackboard

Meet the man behind the region's most anticipated tech IPO.

All eyes, from Wall Street to Washington, will be on Michael Chasen this year.

Most insiders say 2004 is the year for the 32-year-old CEO to take D.C.-based Blackboard public with a big-time IPO.

Chasen spent most of 2003 building Blackboard's top line and strengthening its bottom line. Then, the last few months of the year were spent preparing for this year. Chasen says he talked to several investment bankers who want to underwrite Blackboard's debut on Wall Street.

An IPO for Blackboard means as much for the company as it does for the region's tech community.

Besides federal contracts, the local tech sector hasn't had much to celebrate in the past couple of years. A Blackboard IPO wouldn't mark the beginning of a repeat of the 1990s, but it would give some still-struggling startups hope.

The people tinkering in their basements with new software or working in university labs late into the evening want to know there is at least some shot of ringing the opening bell on Wall Street.

And venture capitalists, who kept a tight grip on what cash they did have in 2003, want to know there's a public market waiting to bear some handsome returns on their investments.

The developer of online software for the education market did what it could to keep the interest of investors in the years when going public had more to do with financial fraud than IPOs.

Blackboard ( posted record sales for the past six quarters, and annual income jumped from $12.1 million in 2000 to nearly $70 million in 2002.

Sales in the third quarter of 2003 clocked in at $25.5 million, putting the company on track to record more than $100 million in sales. And it was turning a profit by the end of the third quarter, although company officials decline to release income figures.

But be on the lookout; there is a dark side to Chasen's position. Young CEOs with all their blood, sweat and cash tied into a company sometimes are thrown out within the first year by investors who don't understand the company but demand profits above anything else. Anybody remember a guy named Steve Case? [Roger Hughlett]


7. Evan Jones

Chairman and CEO,Digene

Medical pro faces scary scenario: realizing his company's potential.

Though 2003 was a good year for Evan Jones and Digene, it was really all about setting the stage for an explosive 2004.

Digene (, a Gaithersburg biotech company, develops devices to detect cervical cancer and infectious diseases in women. Digene's Hybrid Capture 2 HPV DNA test performs the same job as the traditional Pap smear but with a wider detection.

The HC2 test got approval from the Food and Drug Administration in April 2003. Prior to that, the test was used only as a follow-up to a Pap smear.

From a financial standpoint, the company's stock (Nasdaq: DIGE) found itself added to the Nasdaq Biotech Index. Three research firms initiated coverage of the company in 2003, two at a "buy" rating. And it showed: Shares tripled in value in 2003 and the market is forecasting more growth to come.

Late in November 2003, insurance providers recognized Digene's test. Cigna and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield started to allow their carriers to get the procedure.

In December 2003, the company got the nod from the European Union to start tests overseas. Also, in December, a British medical journal published studies that found the HC2 test was more effective than a Pap smear.

So now Jones finds himself with the enviable and challenging task of managing the growth of Digene when the company may experience its most explosive growth. Not a bad place to be. [Tim Mazzucca]


8. Bill Euille

Mayor of Alexandria

Favorite son weathers tempestuous year.

Alexandrians elected their first African-American mayor in 2003, and Bill Euille immediately generated controversy by professing a commitment to a connector between Duke Street and Eisenhower Avenue.

It's a 3.5-mile stretch with no way to get from one road to the other, and Euille said he was ready to move forward no matter the opposition from some residents.

"If we can't bring them all on board, then so be it," Euille said after his election.

Euille has dealt with his share of low points this year. Two weeks into the job, he met with residents to reassure them that allegations of police brutality would be fully investigated.

Later, a 16-year-old T.C. Williams student was attacked and killed by fellow students. In December, Alexandria Sheriff James Dunning's wife was murdered in their home. Then Euille led the city through the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel.

The native Alexandrian is no stranger to adversity. Born and raised in a single-parent home in public housing, he says his experiences growing up made him into a focused and resilient survivor.

"I've been through the storm many times, and I'm still standing," he says. "Yes, I may bend. But I won't break."

Euille says his main goal is to find ways the city can develop more affordable housing. The City Council recently approved a plan to create a community development corporation to help improve the housing mix. A former school board member, Euille also has vowed to make Alexandria's schools the best in Northern Virginia. [Ben Hammer]


9. Deborah Ratner Salzberg

Director, Forest City Enterprises; president, Forest City Washington

Forest City's involvement in Southwest waterfront could shape D.C.'s future.

In 2004, commercial real estate developer Deborah Ratner Salzberg just may move from behind the scenes and into the headlines in Greater Washington.

The George Washington University grad wouldn't likely take all of the credit for Forest City Washington's continued drive in D.C., but she certainly deserves some of it.

Salzberg, president of Forest City's Washington office, is hooked up with Kaempfer and Bresler & Reiner at Waterside Mall in a project that will shape the key area's future development.

A 1.1 million-square-foot, mixed-use development could offer twice as much office and retail, and bring residential development to the suffering dilapidated structure at 401 M St. SW. Preliminary plans call for 400,000 square feet of residential development in the mall, which is just a few blocks from the waterfront.

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae is negotiating to buy the mall from its owners, but few believe Forest City ( will walk away from this opportunity.

Being part of the redevelopment efforts there will leave the largest footprint in the 80-year-old company's local portfolio, which includes Ballston Common Mall and luxury apartments The Grand in Bethesda and The Lenox Club in Pentagon City.

Considering Salzberg's long-standing commitment to the area -- she argued cases for the Justice Department until leaving for Forest City in 1985 -- there is good chance that the Waterside Mall is not the only redevelopment on Forest City's plate. [Suzanne White]


10. Scott Pomeroy

Executive Director,14th & U Main Street Initiative

U Street leader tries to achieve a neighborhood revitalization balancing act.

The once venerable U Street corridor -- Washington's African-American cultural epicenter -- struggled for years to regain what it lost to the 1968 riots.

Economic recovery began to pick up with the opening of a Metrorail station at 13th and U streets NW in 1991. But in the past five years, the commercial strip has endured an economic resurgence that's rapidly accelerating.

Retail rents are rising. Independent merchants are getting more competition from the chains. Housing development is up, way up, especially in the luxury market. Metropolis Development is building Langston Lofts at 14th and V streets NW and says its project is appealing to first-time home buyers because of its "competitive prices" starting in the $300,000s.

Scott Pomeroy's job is to manage that growth.

As director of the 14th & U Main Street Initiative (, a city-sponsored effort with help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, must make sure the retail corridor lives up to its potential.

But with a massive influx of new investment in the neighborhood, Pomeroy has a difficult balancing act on his hands: He has to make sure the long-time U Street business owners don't get pushed out, while keeping the neighborhood open to new investment.

U Street's historic past is its greatest asset. City planners and economic development officials want a vibrant neighborhood that's livable and walkable. But for U Street to retain its eclectic character, leaders such as Pomeroy have to figure out how to incorporate luxury apartments and high-end retail into the mix -- without erasing the neighborhood's past. [Sean Madigan]

11. Kerry Skeen

CEO and chairman, Atlantic Coast Airlines

Hungover from hostile takeover attempt, low-fare carrier reinvents itself.

Dulles-based Atlantic Coast Airlines spent much of the year trying to get its financially struggling partner, United Airlines, to pay higher operating fees. Exasperated, Chairman and CEO Kerry Skeen shocked everyone by ending his company's relationship with its biggest client and sketching out a plan to reinvent ACA as a low-fare carrier.

The newly branded carrier, Independence Air, eventually will fly more than 325 flights a day to more than 50 cities. It'll enter a hot market, going up against JetBlue and AirTran.

"We're going to make Dulles the largest low-fare hub in the country," Skeen said in November. When Skeen announced the idea, the airline's stock (Nasdaq: ACAI) took a nosedive, losing almost a quarter of its value.

Executives were just beginning a road show to sell their idea when Phoenix-based Mesa Airlines stepped in and offered to buy ACA ( for $512 million in an all-stock deal. Independence management rejected the offer, and Mesa -- which operates shuttles for America West, United and US Airways -- promised to take its case to Atlantic shareholders.

And as the new year approached, a formidable set of challenges stood between Skeen and his plan.

A perpetual optimist, Skeen didn't let these details hold him back: He placed an order for 25 Airbus planes for Independence Air, giving the new airline the capability to fly coast to coast.

His patience was rewarded in late December: A federal judge put Mesa's takeover on hold as the Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation of Mesa's takeover attempt, United ended its agreement to transfer Atlantic's Dulles flights to Mesa if the takeover went through, and Mesa promptly dropped its takeover bid. [Ben Hammer]


12. Terrie Spiro

President, First Horizon Bank

High-profile local banker opening new bank in 2004.

There are a lot of banks looking to get into Washington, but one has been of particular interest to old-timers in the industry.

First Horizon Bank, starting in Fairfax, is being led by Terrie Spiro, who most recently was an executive vice president at Riggs Bank. The move surprised people who know Spiro and stand to compete against her when First Horizon swings open its doors, perhaps as soon as March.

Bank officials quickly came out saying they wanted to acquire a community bank. Then they did an about-face and decided to start the bank from scratch.

Amid regional banks' haze of confusion, Spiro went to work assembling her team.

And that's when she pulled out her little black book, full of names and numbers of those she's known during her 20-year tenure here. Before Riggs, Spiro was president of the former Tysons National Bank and president of Heritage Bank.

Now that she's drawn from all those pools, she hopes initial customers will come from the 30,000 mortgage customers of First Horizon Home Loans, the mortgage company the bank is loosely tied to.

One hurdle for Spiro is location. Though First Horizon has lined up five former BB&T/First Virginia Bank branches in Fairfax County, community bankers in the region say the locations are not ideal for retail customers because they don't have drive-throughs and aren't in ideal spots.

But many think Spiro can overcome not-so-ideal locations.

And, never fear, there's always Loudoun County, First Horizon's next target. [Tim Mazzucca]