Bren Wields Most Influence in Southern California


Our list of the most powerful people in Southern California
1. Donald Bren
Chairman, Irvine Co.; 74, Newport Beach

Simply put, Orange County looks like Orange County—much of it uniformly manicured and catering to the high life and high tech—because of the influence of one man. UC Irvine, Fashion Island, the Irvine Spectrum, University Research Park, Newport Coast, Orange County’s thousands of acres of wilderness and parkland and its enviable public school systems all bear Bren’s imprint. So does the New Majority, a growing coalition of wealthy, socially moderate Republicans who helped vault Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an old skiing buddy of Bren, into office. He’s the richest man in Orange County—worth an estimated $7.5 billion, according to the O.C. Business Journal—and has been snapping up property in Century City, San Diego and the Silicon Valley as well. He is publicity-shy and enigmatic but don’t let his style fool you: Bren’s involvement can mean life or death for a voter initiative, political campaign or philanthropic cause. His priorities are education, conservation (penance for a guy who has paved over a good chunk of the county?) and continuing to lift the O.C. out of L.A.’s long, but ever-shortening, shadow.