County's Newsmakers Past and Future : 1984 Was Year of Coming and Goings for Chief Executives

J. ROBERT FLUOR: The Fluor Corp. lost a chairman and Orange County lost a pillar of the community Sept. 9, when Fluor died after a year-long bout with lung cancer. The 62-year-old Fluor transformed the company his grandfather founded in 1912 into a worldwide engineering and construction giant and the county's biggest corporation. A resident of Corona del Mar, he contributed time and money to several charities and was active in supporting the arts in Orange County. His company suffered from a worldwide construction slump and earned only $1 million in 1984, but Fluor remained optimistic. He said in a June interview that the bad times were "the darkness before the dawn."

CHARLES W. MISSLER: Months of wrangling at Helionetics Inc. in Santa Ana between Missler, chairman, chief executive and president, and Bernard Katz, Helionetics' largest shareholder, came to an end when Missler resigned the week before Christmas. Missler joined Helionetics from Western Digital Corp. in Irvine in October, 1983. But at Helionetics, he found little room for flexing his business muscle: Katz stood in the way. Although Katz made stepped aside, he refused investors' demands that he be barred legally from resuming a daily role. Fed up, Missler, 50, left to pursue "other options."

DOUGLAS PATTY: The flamboyant, controversial founder of Anaheim's Heritage Bank was back in the spotlight March 16, 1984, when the state Banking Department declared Heritage insolvent and closed it. About 75 Heritage customers lost more than $4.2 million in deposits. Patty was credited with being the driving force behind Heritage's growth to Orange County's largest independent bank in 1981. Patty, 44, a builder-turned-banker, often criticized fellow bankers as stodgy and uncreative and underscored his differences by creating his own banker's uniform of blue jeans, open-necked shirts and heavy gold jewelry. Patty, who was ousted as Heritage chairman in 1983, still faces investigations by the FDIC and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

JERRY NEELY: This 48-year-old, soft-spoken chairman and chief executive officer of Smith International Inc. made headlines throughout 1984 for what he said was Smith's first unfriendly encounter in the oil patch. The Newport Beach oil services company's investment in Fort Worth-based Gearhart Industries Inc. was welcomed at first. But when the investment grew into a takeover bid, the cozy relationship turned ugly. Gearhart went to court to stop Smith; nine months and millions of dollars later, the acrimonious battle continues. Lately, though, there has been talk of a settlement. "My door is open--it always has been," said Neely.

DONALD L. BREN: Already chairman and owner of 87% of the Irvine Co., Orange County's dominant land owner and community developer, Bren, 52, made a stunning move in 1984 to increase his ownership in giant International Paper Co., the nation's largest producer of paper and lumber, and collected nearly 5% of its outstanding stock. Bren, who is single, handsome and suave, is known as one of Orange County's leading social figures. At his lavish barbecue for hundreds of friends and associates, he announced that Peter Ueberroth, the celebrated president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, would become a director of Newport Beach-based Irvine Co. But his notoriety was double-edged: The Orange County Grand Jury investigated, but did not indict, him for campaign contributions by his Santa Monica-based home building company, The Donald Bren Co., to Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande.

LAWRENCE HOLMES: A movie star-handsome banker with golden dreams, Holmes' world caved in this summer when he abruptly resigned his $300,000 post as president of Orange Bancorp and its subsidiary, the Bank of Orange County. Medical problems were the official reason for Holmes' departure from the company he helped found in 1980, but industry sources say he was forced to quit by government regulators and board members. Holmes, 38, made no secret of his plan to someday sell his 5% share of the bank and use the profits to return to his native Vermont and run for governor. Not only has he stayed out of public campaigns, he also has backed completely out of public view since he quit the unprofitable Bank of Orange County in late May and defaulted on almost $250,000 in loans from three other banks.

JACK MILLER: Miller's high-flying career as the owner of CAMS Inc. came to a screeching halt in February as his Westminster company, once one of Southern California's largest condominium management firms, abruptly closed its doors. Protests from clients who said their bank accounts were shorted triggered a criminal investigation. Homeowner associations formerly under contract to CAMS reported about $1.26 million in losses, but investigators believe much more money than that is actually missing. While investigators plow through "a small room full" of financial records to trace the missing funds, Miller has been in seclusion.

GARY KAPPENMAN: It was not a particularly happy homecoming when Eagle Computer Inc. returned to Orange County in October, a victim of the continuing shakeout in the crowded personal computer industry and a confrontation with International Business Machines. The once high-flying computer maker laid off all but 70 of its employees and fled the high-visibility and high rent of Silicon Valley with a staggering $26.4-million loss in its fiscal 1984, and more than $8 million in debts to refinance. After moving to a modest Garden Grove warehouse, just a few miles from the company's original headquarters in Santa Ana, Kappenman, a co-founder of Eagle, took over as president and chief executive. Where once Eagle expected to be a $100-million company, Kappenman scaled that down to "a $15 to $20 million company that can be profitable."

JAMES and PAUL VANDOREN: Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but it can be disastrous for a business, as the makers of the popular Vans sneakers learned last year. James, 45, and Paul, 54, are co-founders and president and board chairman, respectively, of VanDoren Rubber Co. in Orange. In October the company filed for bankruptcy court protection from its creditors, bringing to a dead stop its march to fame and fortune in the footwear business. Sales of the trendy Vans shoes had led the company to a network of 57 retail stores. But the firm outgrew its founders' expertise; foreign-made "knock-offs," as unauthorized imitations are called, cut into sales; a $6.7 million bank loan went unpaid; and the company's work force is down to 1,100--half its peak 18 months ago.

RANDALL PRESLEY: In 1984, after almost 30 years as chairman and chief executive of the Presley Cos., Presley negotiated a takeover by Pacific Lighting Corp. In the stock swap deal worth about $115 million to Presley Cos. shareholders, Presley himself will net about one-third. And Presley, 66, who founded the major home building and development company, will remain for about a year as president of Pacific Lighting's newly acquired subsidiary.

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