50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.



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21. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS EXECUTIVES
Ron Burkle, Co-owner
Mario Lemieux, Chairman & Co-owner
David Morehouse, President & CEO

Everyone we spoke with for this story was quick to categorize Morehouse, who also worked in the Clinton administration and for the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns, as the true power player among Pittsburgh Penguins brass. But Lemieux and Burkle hold the keys to the kingdom since announcing that they’re considering options regarding selling the team. Though it’s unlikely that any theoretical new owner would shake the relationship between Pittsburgh and one of the NHL’s most successful and storied franchises, it’s hard to overstate the sway that would come with owning the Penguins.  ◆
 

22. Heather Arnet
Chief Strategy Officer, Women and Girls Foundation

Few organizations have such a clear and important mission as the Women and Girls Foundation, which is charged with advancing gender equality. Since Arnet took over the foundation in 2004 as its CEO, her leadership has been an inspiration, as she’s promoted gender and minority representation on Pittsburgh boards, led a “girlcott” against Abercrombie & Fitch over sexist and racist T-shirts, served as board chair for the national Ms. Foundation for Women and pushed for equal pay across the country. She also wrote and directed the 2014 documentary “Madame Presidentá: Why Not U.S.?” about female heads of state — and the need for one in America. No surprise that powerful Democrats have tapped her to run for a state Senate seat representing South Hills communities, prompting her new WGF role.  ◆
 

23. Todd Reidbord
Principal & President, Walnut Capital Partners

If Whole Foods was Walnut Capital’s proof-of-concept, Bakery Square was a leap of faith, resulting in the LEED-certified renovation of the blighted Nabisco factory that now is home to Google Pittsburgh and UPMC’s Technology Development Center. Fast-forward to 2014, when Reidbord meets with officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment in Google’s offices overlooking the bustling square. Impressed by what they saw, HUD officials awarded a $30-million Choice Neighborhoods Grant to the city for low- and mixed-income housing and development in Larimer. While it took a village to win the federal largess, many agree that Walnut Capital’s big bet on the East End — led by Reidbord and CEO Gregg Perelman — sparked its revitalization. Bakery Square 2.0 adds expanded space for Google and tech company Autodesk; meanwhile, Walnut Capital also is moving into Uptown with Flats on Fifth. But the really big question: Will Reidbord make a bid for the Pens?  ◆
 


PHOTO BY BECKY THURNER BRADDOCK
 

24. Aradhna Oliphant
President & CEO, Leadership Pittsburgh

Oliphant has strong ties to Pennsylvania power brokers — she’s married to The Heinz Endowments’ prez Grant Oliphant (No. 1) and served on the transition team for Gov. Tom Wolf (No. 31) — but she’s also in the midst of grooming a new, more diverse group of leaders with her invitation-only Unboxed events, mentoring initiatives for veterans and Leadership Pittsburgh. The 10-month training program provides an essential network between graduates and connects them with top political, business and philanthropic players. The region’s power list will look different in 15 years — and Aradhna Oliphant will be a big reason why.  ◆
 



PHOTO BY BECKY THURNER BRADDOCK
 

25. William Generett Jr.
President & CEO, Urban Innovation21

As the chief executive of Urban Innovation21, Generett is using the public-private partnership to bridge the gap between today’s haves and have-nots — the soaring tech industry and struggling underserved communities. So far, that’s included such projects as creating an innovation program in Homewood, partnering with the Reed Smith LLP law firm to provide legal advice to entrepreneurs, college internship programs and contributing to Hill District development. One sign of how well he’s doing? Last fall, he was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship to help advise the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on these types of issues.  ◆
 

"Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power." Lucius Annaeus Seneca

26. Rich Harshman
Chairman, President and CEO, Allegheny Technologies

The CEO of the specialty metals manufacturer is the consummate mixer, circulating among the city’s well-connected power players. Harshman’s network stems from positions on high-profile local boards, including chair-elect of the board of Robert Morris University (his alma mater, where he was the top giver in a $40 million capital campaign for the School of Business), the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Duquesne Club; in November, he will succeed Morgan O’Brien (No. 18) as chair of the Allegheny Conference. This past year, ATI, which employs 9,000 people worldwide, completed an ambitious $1.2 billion state-of-the art hot-rolling mill in Harrison Township.  ◆
 

27. Bill Strickland
President & CEO, Manchester Bidwell Corp.

By the sheer power of his charisma and work ethic, social entrepreneur Strickland has helped to re-imagine education on the North Side with the Manchester-Bidwell Corporation, which simultaneously offers arts programs for disadvantaged children and vocational training programs in areas such as culinary arts and medicine-related fields for adults. Strickland’s work has earned a MacArthur “Genius” grant, and MBC has served as a model for similar centers in Cleveland, New Haven, Conn., and Buffalo, N.Y.  ◆
 

28. Maxwell King
President & CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation

After nearly a decade away, King was lured back to the city in September 2014 to run The Pittsburgh Foundation, which draws power from its hundreds of donors and individual funds. While he’s still learning some of the new faces around town, King can draw on his experience and connections from his days running both the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Heinz Endowments, as well as The Pittsburgh Foundation’s formidable reputation — it boasts $1 billion in assets and is the 13th-largest community foundation in the country.  ◆
 

29. Andrew W. Moore
Dean, School of Computer Science, CMU

After Google failed to lure Moore from CMU to Silicon Valley, the search-engine giant came to him, opening up a Pittsburgh office with him as director in 2006. During his tenure, Moore grew the office to more than 275 employees and led projects in ad targeting, display ads, AdSense and fraud protection. Google’s presence has helped the region to become a brain hub that attracts and retains talent. “It’s a huge draw for out-of-town investors, entrepreneurs and CEOs who want the talent his department turns out,” says one observer. In 2014, Moore returned to CMU as the new dean of the School of Computer Science, where he’s overseeing the education of the next generation of tech whiz kids.  ◆
 

30. David Holmberg
President & CEO, Highmark Health

When Holmberg assumed control of Highmark in spring 2014 — its third CEO in as many years — he stepped into the sights of UPMC, which was refusing to sign a new contract that would allow Highmark patients in-network access to UPMC docs. More than a year later, the dispute remains unresolved. Holmberg, who’s been an executive with Highmark since 2007— previously, he ran several dental and vision insurance companies — has let UPMC’s Jeffrey Romoff (No. 2) appear to be the Big Healthcare Bully, positioning Highmark in the media as the entity that is willing to negotiate to achieve the best healthcare for its patients. It’s a wise move, but really, it’s the only one that Holmberg has — to a large extent, UPMC, as the bigger system, still calls the shots, leaving Holmberg dependent on help from government regulators.  ◆
 

Next: 50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh #31-40
 

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