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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Pacesetters of 2016

Randa C

RANDA CONIGLIO, CEO, Unified Port of San Diego

Randa Coniglio has been CEO at the Unified Port of San Diego since the summer of 2015. In the 18 months since then, she has put her own management stamp on the agency, which is landlord for a large number of businesses, big and small, around San Diego Bay.

Port commissioners awarded Coniglio the top job one year after they inked a severance deal with CEO Wayne Darbeau in mid-2014.

Having worked at the agency since 2000, the 56-year-old Coniglio has deep historical knowledge of the port. Since her appointment, Coniglio has streamlined her organization to the benefit of tenants, according to Sharon Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association.

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Today, Coniglio’s agency is pushing ahead with several projects. On the waterfront, the port is moving to improve its 10th Avenue Marine Terminal to handle much more cargo. The terminal may one day house several large gantry cranes able to handle shipping containers and other cargo.

On the real estate front, the agency is working to redevelop 70 acres of waterfront property that now includes the Seaport Village shopping center. Commissioners recently chose the Protea Waterfront Development to build a $1.2 billion project, slated to include hotels, retail and tourist attractions including an observation tower and an aquarium. About a mile to the northeast on Harbor Island, the port is working with OliverMcMillan and Sunroad Enterprises on a hotel, office, retail and tourist development on 57 acres.

Taking the wide view, the port is working on a 50-year blueprint for development around the ring of San Diego Bay.

Port management has had to shepherd these large projects through the approval process while also ably taking care of the “bread-and-butter” work of dealing with the port’s hundreds of tenants, Cloward said.

Cloward said Coniglio is a good listener and has an ability to work through issues.

“She’s a problem solver,” Cloward said.

Brad Graves

Steve Davis

STEVE DAVIS, President and CEO, ACADIA Pharmaceuticals

Steve Davis has made difficult (and sometimes risky) decisions this year for drugmaker ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc., but his choices may pay off in spades.

Davis was appointed CEO of ACADIA back in September 2015, promoted from chief financial officer and chief business officer. He stepped into the role at a precarious time for the company. ACADIA’s longtime CEO Uli Hacksell had just announced his retirement following news that the company’s application for FDA approval of Nuplazid, its lead drug, would be delayed. The news sent stock plummeting 34 percent.

It’s possible that Hacksell, who had much experience in clinical-stage development but little practice in commercialization, was a factor in the delays.

Davis, by contrast, took the helm with significant experience in operations. He brought two decades of executive-level experience in the pharmaceutical industry, and his background was more suited to ACADIA’s needs as it transitioned to a commercial-stage company.

Davis led the company through FDA approval of Nuplazid, which is now the only treatment that exists for the psychosis that often accompanies Parkinson’s disease. Getting Nuplazid on the market was a major feat considering it was one of few novel drugs developed in San Diego that actually reached patients.

On top of earning FDA approval, Davis also chose to take the company through commercialization without the help of a major pharmaceutical firm, keeping more of the profits in ACADIA’s pockets. And cash is starting to fill the company’s coffers. In November, ACADIA reported sales of Nuplazid came in 83 percent higher than expected for the company’s third quarter. Some analysts have projected that the company’s drug could eventually reach “blockbuster” status, pulling in annual revenue upward of $1 billion.

Brittany Meiling

Mick Farrell


Michael “Mick” Farrell has spent the last three years leading ResMed Inc., the multibillion-dollar corporation he took over from his father, the founder and former CEO of ResMed, Peter Farrell. Since Mick’s takeover in March 2013, the company’s stock has gradually climbed 44 percent and the medical device maker currently stands as one of San Diego’s largest life science firms with a market cap of nearly $9 billion.

That solid growth has much to do with the younger Farrell keeping ResMed nimble. Once a strictly-focused medical device manufacturer, ResMed has evolved to be one of the largest providers of connected health care products in the world. It’s suite of high-tech medical devices (primarily for sleep-disordered breathing) are now managed by software that’s constantly moving, crunching, and analyzing data.

Farrell is shoring up ResMed’s position in the “internet of medical things” by funneling massive resources into the company’s digital health portfolio, and appointing experienced tech executives such as Raj Sodhi to lead the company’s informatics division. This software-focused team is growing so rapidly that it recently took over the entire fourth floor of ResMed’s Kearny Mesa headquarters. Although ResMed would not disclose the department’s employment numbers, it’s estimated that the company’s informatics team employs upwards of 200 engineers and developers.

ResMed now has more than 5,000 patents in its intellectual property portfolio, giving the company a huge share of the largely untapped sleep disorder devices market.

Padding the company’s portfolio further, Farrell recently led the company through multiple acquisitions of software companies, including this year’s $800 million purchase of Brightree, a business management and clinical software company that makes applications for the home medical equipment industry. It was the largest acquisition in ResMed’s 27-year history.

Today, ResMed employs 5,000 people (including at least 400 in San Diego), and reported $1.8 billion in revenue last year.

Brittany Meiling

Yehudi Gaffen

YEHUDI GAFFEN, Partner, Protea Waterfront Properties

Yehudi Gaffen has spearheaded numerous local projects in more than three decades in the development business, but he acknowledges that his latest is perhaps among the most daunting. With business partners Jeffrey Essakow and Jeff Jacobs, he heads Protea Waterfront Properties, which has been chosen by the Unified Port of San Diego to oversee what would be a $1.2 billion overhaul of downtown’s Central Embarcadero.

That includes ultimately replacing the iconic Seaport Village — an aging but beloved waterfront mainstay since 1980 — potentially with elements including new hotels, retail marketplaces, an aquarium, a spiral observation tower and a virtual-reality cultural attraction from an arm of the Smithsonian Institution.

Gaffen and his team aren’t the only ones facing the pressures of not only meeting port officials’ expectations for better revenue performance from prime real estate, but also doing so in a way that satisfies discerning locals as well as tourists. All eyes in the coming year will also be on Mike Morton Jr.’s Brigantine Inc., which was tapped by port officials to develop a multivenue dining attraction — the $13 million Portside Pier — that will replace Anthony’s Fish Grotto, whose lease expires in early 2017 after several decades on the North Embarcadero.

Also, planning should be moving forward on more than $1 billion in new elements spanning 57 acres at Harbor Island, which for many years housed primarily rental car lots. Teams at OliverMcMillan (led by Dene Oliver) and Sunroad Enterprises (led by Aaron and Uri Feldman) will be working together and have proposed hotels, offices, parks, public markets and beaches, among other elements.

Lou Hirsh

Greg Koch

GREG KOCH, Executive Chairman, Stone Brewing Co.

Co-founder Greg Koch saw his Stone Brewing Co. turn 20 in 2016. This was also a year in which the Escondido-based brewer experienced many of the highs — and one notable low — that come with the territory for a growing company in a maturing industry.

The nation’s 10th-largest craft beer maker, and the biggest of more than 100 based in San Diego County, opened new production and restaurant operations in Berlin, Germany, becoming the first American craft brewer to establish that kind of footprint outside the U.S. The brewer also opened a large new East Coast production facility in Richmond, Va., significantly boosting its domestic distribution clout.

Stone also announced plans for a new beer-themed hotel next-door to its flagship Escondido facilities, as it continued with preparations for a new taproom in Napa. This was also the year that Koch and co-founder Steve Wagner unveiled plans to establish a new $100 million investment company, True Craft, to provide venture funding to smaller beer-makers, in a world where mergers and acquisitions continue to encroach on brewer independence.

Stone Brewing also hired its first CEO who is not Koch himself: Dominic Engels, the former president of The Wonderful Co., with experience selling juices and nuts to an international clientele. Ascending to his new title of executive chairman, Koch also oversaw this year’s one low point: the tough decision to lay off 5 percent of Stone’s workforce — about 60 of its 1,200 employees — as it reconfigured resources to meet the needs of a now global enterprise.

Other industry players spreading their operations well beyond the San Diego region this year included Green Flash Brewing Co., led by Mike and Lisa Hinkley; Karl Strauss Brewing Co., led by Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner; and yeast and testing services provider White Labs, led by Chris White.

Lou Hirsh

Greg Lucier

GREG LUCIER, CEO and Chairman, NuVasive Inc.

Greg Lucier took the helm at NuVasive Inc. in 2015, and has wasted no time setting the company on a path for growth.

The company, a medical device firm disrupting the spinal surgery market, is one of San Diego’s larger public companies, with a market cap of $3.4 billion. Since Lucier’s takeover of the CEO chair in April 2015, the company’s stock has risen over 50 percent.

Lucier, 52, has a reputation as an executive fixated on growth, and as one of the most widely recognized executives in local life sciences, he’s quite good at it. Lucier is best known as the guy who grew Carlsbad’s Life Technologies into a firm worth $13.6 billion. It sold to Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2014, and remains the largest sale in San Diego life science history.

One strategy Lucier has implemented at both Life Technologies and NuVasive is making thoughtful and strategic acquisitions. He led NuVasive through three major acquisitions in 2016: Ellipse Technologies Inc. for $410 million, Biotronic NeuroNetwork for $98 million and Mega Surgical for an undisclosed amount.

Lucier said the acquisitions help NuVasive offer the best technology and service to those doing spine procedures.

“Whether it’s Ellipse giving this whole new idea of minimally invasive surgery, or Biotronic, which now puts us in the operating room helping to monitor the procedure, our whole goal is to be this comprehensive spine technology entity,” Lucier told the San Diego Business Journal in an interview earlier this year.

NuVasive reported that its total annual revenue had grown 6.4 percent in 2015 to $811.1 million. In Lucier’s first full year on the job, the company has reported quarterly revenue growth between 11.8 percent and 19.5 percent for the first three quarters of 2016. The company is set to exceed $1 billion in sales in 2016.

Brittany Meiling

Patti Maysent


It’s not every year an executive gets appointed to an organization’s top post, inks the latest in a series of strategic affiliation agreements and guides a nearly $1 billion construction project to completion — all in the span of 11 months. But, that’s what kind of year 2016 was for Patty Maysent.

Maysent was named CEO of 7,500-employee UC San Diego Health in January, having served in the post on an interim basis since former CEO Paul Viviano left in 2015 to run Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

In August, after eight months of negotiations, UC San Diego Health unveiled an affiliation with Tri-City Healthcare District in which the university-based health system will assign physicians and introduce new medical services to North County, thereby expanding its reach in the local market.

Three months later, UC San Diego Health threw open the doors of Jacobs Medical Center, a $943 million hospital in La Jolla that took more than six years to finish. With 245 patient beds, the building stands 10 stories high and offers women and infants care, cancer services and advanced surgery.

That’s not all Maysent was up to in 2016. In May, her organization entered into an agreement with El Centro Regional Medical Center to expand health-care services in Imperial Valley and give the municipally owned hospital access to research projects and educational opportunities, including medical training through the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Also, in March, UC San Diego Health announced collaboration with Vantage Oncology under which the two will combine to provide cancer care services in Imperial Valley.

John Cox

Mary Ann McGarry

MARY ANN MCGARRY, CEO and President, Guild Mortgage Co.

Mary Ann McGarry, CEO and president of Guild Mortgage Co., has overseen the continued growth of the San Diego-based independent mortgage company this year, from its acquisition of Texas-based firm AmeriPro Home Loans to its partnership with Unison, a San Francisco-based company which invests alongside home buyers by providing a portion of the down payment. The acquisition of AmeriPro and its 29 branches made Guild Mortgage one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in Texas and added $750 million in loan volume.

Guild Mortgage expanded locally, too, leasing more space at its local headquarters in Kearny Mesa. The company signed a 10-year lease for 40,000 square feet valued at approximately $10 million, an expansion of Guild Mortgage’s current corporate headquarters in the neighboring North Island Credit Union Building. The expansion included the installation of a new pathway between the buildings.

McGarry also hired the company’s first chief marketing officer, saying the move was intended to show the company’s interest in making marketing a priority.

As the end of the year approaches, Guild Mortgage’s loan volume is on pace to set another record. Loan volume in the first three quarters of the year was $11.8 billion, up 8.2 percent from $10.7 billion in the same period in 2015. The company also grew its loan servicing business during the first three quarters of 2016, with $27.9 billion in loans serviced compared to $20.8 billion in the same period in 2015.

Sarah de Crescenzo

Steve Mollenkopf

STEVE MOLLENKOPF, Chief Executive Officer, Qualcomm Inc.

CEO Steve Mollenkopf spent 2016 setting a new direction for Qualcomm Inc.

It was a little more than a year ago that the company said no to the idea of splitting itself in two. Some claimed that would be a way to increase shareholder value.

With revenue from cellphone chips leveling off, however, directors at Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) realized the company has to strike off in some new directions.

Under Mollenkopf, the company recently debuted a chip for internet data centers that Qualcomm hopes can rival the tried-and-true products from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). The San Diego business also announced plans to pair its Snapdragon processors with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)’s Windows operating system on a new class of portable computers.

Qualcomm is also exploring collaborations in life sciences and medicine.

In October, Qualcomm announced a plan to acquire Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors N.V. for $47 billion, including the assumption of NXP’s debt. Qualcomm would like to close the deal at the end of 2017. If it goes through, the San Diego business would get more and different opportunities making chips for the Internet of Things and automotive spaces.

Mollenkopf has a particular interest in cars, an analyst told the Business Journal in January, adding that it takes a lot of time to get chips into specific auto models. If you visualize the automotive space as a traffic jam, it seems the NXP buy would take Qualcomm to the front of the line.

Regulators from two continents must still bless the acquisition, however, and it’s not quite clear how big a challenge that may be.

Prior to becoming CEO in March 2014, Mollenkopf helped bring fourth-generation wireless technology to the market. Now company engineers are working to define the standards for its successor technology, called 5G for short.

Brad Graves

Adam Robinson

ADAM ROBINSON, Principal, RAF Pacifica Group

Ben Badiee

BEN BADIEE, President and CEO, Badiee Development Inc.

Many observers are now bullish on upcoming demand for industrial space in San Diego County, particularly North County. Several growing industries — ranging from action sports, to medical devices, to e-commerce — are running out of places to make, store and distribute their wares. And new buildings are not sprouting quickly in high-demand, freeway-centric places like Central San Diego, where current space is tight and there’s limited room for new construction.

Two local developers have recently stood out from the crowd in their willingness to put their money where their optimism is, and to do it largely on speculation — with tenants, for the most part, not lined up in advance for some major industrial and related office projects now underway.

At Encinitas-based RAF Pacifica Group, Principal Adam Robinson and his team acquired more than $100 million in commercial real estate assets for land and development during 2016. The company now has more than 1 million square feet of spec development either under construction or planned over the next 24 months, much of it in Carlsbad and other North County cities.

Developer Ben Badiee, who heads La Jolla-based Badiee Development Inc., recently broke ground on an industrial development called Carlsbad Victory Park. It is the first of six industrial projects totaling $90 million in Badiee’s North County development pipeline, with new buildings in the works in Carlsbad and Escondido.

Lou Hirsh

Susan Salka

SUSAN SALKA, President and CEO, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

Susan Salka led San Diego-based AMN Healthcare Services Inc. through another strong year in 2016, adding two acquisitions to a spate of purchases in recent years that have accelerated revenue growth.

In January, AMN completed a $160 million, all-cash acquisition of Lenexa, Kan.-based health care staffing firm B.E. Smith. That came after AMN bought three brands in 2015 from Wilton, Conn.-based OGH LLC for $82.5 million and Irvine’s The First String Healthcare, a nursing staff provider, for $6.5 million plus an earn-out opportunity of up to $4 million.

Then, in June, AMN picked up its fifth acquisition in less than two years, Peak Health Solutions, a Franklin, Tenn.-based health information management company; the price was not disclosed.

The result has been solid year-over-year revenue gains. AMN posted third quarter 2016 revenue of $472.6 million, an increase of 23 percent over the like period in 2015.

In the company’s third-quarter 2016 earnings release, Salka predicted steady demand for health-care professionals and workforce solutions going forward.

“The current demand levels, indicators of our clients’ future needs and our leading market position provide us with optimism heading into 2017,” she said.

John Cox

Sue Swenson

SUE SWENSON, Chairwoman and CEO, Inseego Corp.

Sue Swenson spent 2016 working to turn around Novatel Wireless, a business that prospered in 2007 but had its last profitable year in 2009.

It’s a big project. Swenson, who has an impressive corporate resume, is still in the middle of the turnaround — but she has several things to show from her work during the last 12 months.

One of the most recent changes is the company’s name. As of Nov. 3, Novatel Wireless became Inseego Corp. and its Nasdaq stock symbol changed to INSG.

In September, the corporation announced plans to sell its MiFi wireless hotspot business — once the core of the company — to TCL Industries Holdings of Hong Kong for $50 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.

Swenson has already seen a lot of history. She took a seat on the company board in mid-2012 and has been chairwoman since April 2014. She took the CEO’s job in October 2015 after the board dismissed CEO Alex Mashinsky, an activist shareholder who took office in June 2014 and attempted his own turnaround.

One of Mashinsky’s 2015 projects was acquiring two businesses: Oregon-based Feeney Wireless, which specializes in the internet of things, in March; and South Africa-based DigiCore Holdings, which specializes in vehicle tracking and telematics, in October. Swenson spent 2016 working to integrate those two organizations into the structure that the company hopes to carry into 2017. Part of the old Novatel Wireless business will remain, too.

The old company business plan emphasized hardware. “Hardware’s a tough business,” Swenson said in a November 2015 interview. Under its revamped business plan, Inseego plans to get revenue from Software as a Service. The beauty is that it is recurring revenue, she said.

Brad Graves


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