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."
ELIZABETH SANDERS: Even though she turns 40 this year, 1985 promises to be more than a middle-age milestone for Sanders, the energetic woman who, as vice president and general manager of Nordstrom's Southern California division, is leader of the department store's continued invasion of the Southland retailing scene. During the next 12 months, the Seattle-based retailer will open three stores and a discount outlet, begin building two other stores and finally break ground for its long-planned expansion at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, where Sanders has her office. "It should be a wild year," Sanders said. By the time 1985 is over, Sanders expects her 6-year-old division to be the top-selling operation in the Nordstrom chain--ousting the division in Nordstrom's home state, where it has been doing business since 1901.
MICHAEL DUNN: If Westworld Community Healthcare Inc. continues during 1985 to grow as it has in the last 2 1/2 years, then Dunn, Westworld's 39-year-old founder, president and chief executive officer, should get his wish: His goal is to become the nation's biggest operator of small hospitals. Dunn estimates the Lake Forest company will add another 9 facilities this year to its network of 24 rural hospital and health care facilities. Revenues have been projected to jump to more than $90 million in 1985 from about $50 million last year. And earnings are expected to increase to more than $3 million this year from about $1.8 million in 1984. Westworld's growth strategy calls for the chain to acquire at bargain prices ailing, poorly-managed hospitals in rural communities where health care services are a monopoly operation. "We're the only game in town in every place we are located," Dunn said recently.
JOHN G. RINALDO: His real estate investment empire collapsed in 1983 and he was indicted by a federal grand jury on 15 counts of mail fraud in 1984. But 1985 holds more in store for Rinaldo, a suave, 46-year-old financier who partied with prominent politicians, drove a Rolls-Royce and maintained a multimillion-dollar home in Newport Beach's exclusive Big Canyon Country Club before declaring personal bankruptcy. Rinaldo goes to trial March 5 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on charges that he bilked 7,500 people out of as much as $10 million in retirement funds.
LOUIS F. HEILIG: In 1985, Heilig, vice president of defense operations at Ford Communications & Aerospace Corp., will have a tough task protecting Sgt. York, the controversial, $4.5 billion anti-aircraft gun system built for the Army, from congressional budget-cutters. Heilig leads the team at Ford that must resolve production delays and performance problems that have plagued the weapons systems program throughout its 8-year history, drawn harsh criticism from Congress and assorted governmental agencies, and even a public warning that it could be scrapped. The Pentagon is expected to make a decision by fall.