The Crowd: Business leaders share dinner and directors awards

It was arguably the most prestigious social event of the Southern California business community.

On Feb. 17, some 450 executives from all over Southern California converged upon the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Laguna Niguel, for the 16th Forum for Corporate Directors awards dinner.

The high-powered function was hosted by Michael A. Mussallem, chairman and chief executive of Edwards Lifesciences Corporation. Edwards was also one of the overall event sponsors, joined by the Walt Disney Co. assisting in underwriting the evening.

The annual dinner is created to bestow upon business leaders recognition for their excellence. The Forum for Corporate Directors labels the awards Directors of the Year and for the past 16 years 89 individuals have been honored by the organization.

John Della Grotta, chairman of the Forum for Corporate Directors and a partner of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, welcomed the arriving crush of dignitaries, including the five honorees for 2011. Included in the assemblage were a large contingent of Newport-Mesa business men and women, among them one of the 2011 honorees, Douglas K. Ammerman. Accepting the award for corporate governance, Ammerman serves on the boards of EPL Intermediate Inc., (El Pollo Loco Inc.), Fidelity National Financial Inc. and Quiksilver Inc.

From the boards of directors of Bank of America Corporation and the Walt Disney Co., Monica Lozano was awarded the corporate growth and development honor for 2011. Thomas E. Pardun, chairman of the board of Western Digital Corporation, was honored with an award for corporate leadership and service.

The founding chairman of Quality Systems Inc., Sheldon Razin received the enhancement of economic value honor. And finally, Murray E. Rudin, managing partner of Riordan, Lewis & Haden, was honored with the early stage company award.

The gathering was indeed a who's who of accomplishment in Southern California.

In the crowd was the distinguished Gen. William Lyon, a former honoree, joining Tom McKernan, former honoree and president and chief executive of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Additional corporate honorees in attendance included Randall R. Lunn, Joseph Sullivan, Matt Wiitte, Dave Berkus, Fred Haney, Charlie Hobbs, Dave Holder, Bala Iyer and Fernando Niebla.

Also present was Gaddi H. Vasquez, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, County Supervisor John Moorlach and the Alejandra Garcia-Williams, the Mexican consul in Orange County.

Major players in the arena of accounting and finance included John Belli, Robert Lucenti, Knute Kurtz, Dean Samsvick, Gary Wilson and Wayne Pinnell. Also spotted in the crowd were Glenn Schafer, Nick Yocca, Scott Mercer, Simon Biddiscombe, Steve and Linda Plochoki, and Dean Anil Puri of the Mlhaylo School of Business at Cal State Fullerton.

Mussallem handled the master of ceremonies duties with panache as the crowd shared dinner and acknowledged the business achievements of the honorees.

Founded in 1991, the Forum for Corporate Directors is a nonprofit business organization committed to promoting the highest standards of corporate governance and to increasing the effectiveness of directors, chief executives and senior level executives.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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