(Editor’s note: This is the introduction to our New Establishment special report. To see the entire list, we invite you to complete a very brief – we timed it at one minute – survey at the end of this post.)
Like every city, Louisville has been blessed and cursed with leadership that has ranged from great to lacking.
Some of the worst blessedly have gone off to ruin other cities, or to impotent positions in the cobwebbed corners of state government.
The challenge is to retain the best – the people with capital, the time and capacity for heavy intellectual lifting.
Ultimately, there is nothing like death to speed up the evolutionary process. Not to seem cruel, but the exit of leaders redistributes wealth and shifts the balance of power in a city.
Take for example the deaths within the last 11 months of both Owsley Brown II and his first cousin, Owsley Frazier.
Both men were exceptionally wealthy and exceptionally visionary.
The modern Brown-Forman, which uses 21st Century global strategies such as huge marketing events in the Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka is the direct result of Owsley Brown’s business push when he was CEO and chairman.
Owsley Frazier also was a passionate supporter of Louisville’s arts.
Owsley Frazier was the city’s greatest philanthropist, giving away an estimated $500 million to educational institutions, including the University of Louisville, where he was until recently president of the Board of Trustees.
Their deaths represent a turning point not unlike the early 1990s when Humana co-founder Wendell Cherry died, and the Bingham family began to step away from Louisville leadership after selling their media empire, a most regrettable result being Gannett Co. Inc’s desultory ownership of the Courier-Journal.
There are few who would dispute our assertion the early 1990s were not kind to Louisville.
Who replaces these two giants very much determines the future of the city. So in that spirit, we’ve asked our most trusted and informed insiders to give us their lists of the New Establishment they believe have the vision – if not always the wealth – to come forward and help shape the city via direct participation in business, civic groups, entrepreneurial efforts and governance.
And there are a lot of twists and nuances to make sense of where we are.
So we included these observations from our confidants:
• “There’s an emerging ‘New Guard,’ a new generation of Browns and Fraziers big on the influence scale and making big investments in Louisville (including) Augusta and Gill Holland; Sandra Frazier; Owsley Brown III.”
• Some new leaders lack the “Old school” David Jones/Bingham/Brown family sense of civic duty.
• Who will stay? “Too many companies were sold in the 70s, 80s and 90s and there are simply too few family controlled businesses in town, which is one reason we have to stop promoting ‘exit’ sales strategies for start-ups and keep them building here so they can become Brown-Forman in 140 years.”
We listened to you, then chose 48 people from your suggestions who have the influence and money to lead.
We’ve not only included the visionaries and moneyed elite, but the make-it-happen people such as attorneys and accountants.
Some notable names missing including Kris Kimel, IdeaFestival founder, because Kimel lives in Lexington.
But overall, we have to marvel at the depth of Louisville leadership, which transcends gender, ethnicity and national origins. You don’t have to be a blue blood WASP as in the days of the Binghams, Nortons, Mortons and Throckmortons.
But it sure as hell doesn’t hurt to have the last name “Brown” or “Frazier.”
After discussing this with dozens of insiders, here’s our takeaway:
We could make the argument the next 25 years have the potential of being the greatest, most expansive quarter-century in Louisville history.
Here are our consensus picks for the people who make up Louisville’s New Establishment:
Tyler Allen: The co-founder of 86-64 with J.C. Stites had a great idea. Once he lost to Mayor Greg Fischer, Tyler seemed to be reluctant to continue being a public figure, say our sources. But a recent New York Times article essentially validates everything Allen and Stites advocated, including tearing down the section of Interstate-64 running parallel to the river. Will Allen return with a new version of his vision, which was one of the most popular and bipartisan grassroots movements in Louisville history?
Matthew Barzun: Barzun is chief fundraiser for President Barack Obama and the former ambassador to Sweden. If Obama wins, Barzun won’t be staying in Louisville, our sources say. But he is part of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Visioning Plan. So this guy could go either way. No one in Louisville has more influence right now in DC than Barzun. And few have the connections in the tech and startup communities. If he stays, a serious force to be reckoned with.
Brooke Brown Barzun: Brown-Forman heiress, Brooke Barzun, Matthew Barzun’s wife, is stepping out on her own as the chairwoman of the Community Gifts fundraising for the Speed Art Museum’s $50 million expansion.
Deborah Boyer: You may never have heard of Boyer, but powerful people who count in the non-profit and digital arenas turn to Boyer’s counsel as one of the brightest business consultants in the city. Boyer is on multiple boards and talks daily with top business leaders and government officials. Very off the radar and very New Establishment.
Junior Bridgeman: No one is more low-key and invisible than Bridgeman. But in the course of tracking the moves toward Louisville acquiring an NBA team, we found out as president of Bridgeman Foods LLC, few Louisvillians can match his wealth. Working behind the scenes with the Fischer Administration, predict our sources, Bridgman will accomplish great things. Is he New Establishment? Is he Old Establishment? We think he’s the rare example of both.
Ina Brown Bond: An overlooked Brown-Forman heir, Bond has been on just about every board you can image. When you look at Brown’s profile on the Glenview Trust website, then you understand. Brown has twice had the second highest priced yearling at the September Keeneland thoroughbred auctions. She was on the PNC Bank of Kentucky board for 13 years. Currently, she is on the board of The J. Graham Brown Foundation, president of the W. L. Lyons Brown Foundation and chairman emeritus of the board of the Muhammad Ali Center. No one, but no one, is as well connected. Will she ascend to the heights of influence occupied by Owsley Brown and Sallie Brown? Or is she already there?
Campbell Brown. Yet another BF heir, Campbell Brown is the director of Southern Comfort Americas and vice president of Brown-Forman Corp. Multiple people nominated Campbell Brown as an important member of the New Establishment, but we don’t know much about him. We include him because he connects to the community on the board of Republic Bank and all our insiders listed him.
Mac Brown: This Brown is vice-president, director of Business Services at Brown-Forman. There are so many people in the various Brown-Forman connected families – Browns, Fraziers and Hunekes – that Mac Brown tends to get lost in the mix. But our insiders tell us Brown may be unassuming and subdued, “but this is a guy with real substance and intelligence.” An advisor at U of L’s Family Business Center, where he’s an expert on – of course – the dynamics of family business. Expect great things, say our sources.
Owsley Brown III: Does the documentary filmmaker Owsley Brown III (“Music Makes a City”) still live here? We are assured he does. And we’re assured he supports the arts through the Owsley Brown Charitable Foundation. We also understand that Brown is pushing for a film program at the University of Louisville.
Mike Bukosky, CEO of University of Louisville Physicians, Bukosky is the yin to Dr. David Dunn’s caustic yang; gregarious, outgoing and open. Bukosky may be best known as the public face of University of Louisville’s giant physicians group last year in its insurance dispute with insurer Humana Inc. He did multiple media interviews while Humana officials remained silent about the 18-month dispute in which Humana demanded concessions from the physicians group – Kentucky’s largest collection of specialists – to remain in-network with the insurer.
Vik Chadha: Chadha symbolizes how important startups and technology have the potential to become in Louisville’s economic matrix. Chadha is cofounder of Backupify with Rob May. Before that, Chadha started Glow Touch Technologies. Concurrent with that, he was Enterprise Corp managing director and director, Louisville Innovation and Commercialization Center. Everyone knows him or wants to know him. All our entrepreneurs and techies put Chadha at the top of their New Establishment lists. Virginia Polytechnic Institute grad.
(Editor’s note: For the rest of our debut New Establishment list, please complete the survey below, which will in turn give you the link to the rest of the special report. The survey takes about one minute.)