Orange County Business Journal

Sammis’ Intellect; Slemons’ ’76 Run; Barth’s Bellwether

Jerry Sullivan Sunday, February 24, 2013

A lot of nice things were said about Lee Sammis, who passed away at his Newport Beach home on Feb. 12. He was called a pioneer of the garden-office building concept, and his rise to the national ranks of big industrial developers was noted. Rusty Turner adds a unique perspective on Sammis, who gave him his first job in real estate, and later invested in some of his ventures. “He was extremely curious and loved the intellectual side of the business,” Turner says. What’s the intellectual side of the real estate business? “How cities are shaped, where the growth is going, what do you put on a piece of land?” says Turner. “Lee was a great land man—and in order to be a land guy, you’ve got to think years in the future and pick the right spot.” Turner says his friend often picked winners within moments of laying eyes on them. Might seem like gut instinct, but Turner says that’s an understatement. “It was informed by intellect, and by looking at hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of properties” …

Notices of another recent passing also left room for more recollections. Jim Slemons died in Las Vegas on Feb. 4, sparking tales of his career as a maverick OC auto dealer. Didn’t see anything about this nugget, passed along by a reader: Slemons challenged Marian Bergeson for the GOP nomination in the 74th Assembly District in 1976. He beat establishment-favorite Bergeson in the primary for what was probably the most Republican seat in California at the time—and then got some payback. Bergeson jumped into the general election as a write-in candidate, splitting the GOP vote and giving the seat to Democrat Ron Cordova, now a local attorney. Bergeson won the seat in 1978, the start of a long career in elected office here …

Think Together founder and CEO Randy Barth is among many with a keen eye on the pending deal that would see Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and St. Joseph Health form a new regional healthcare network. Santa Ana-based nonprofit Think Together draws a lot of support from OC businesses for its academically oriented after-school programs, now at 400 locations throughout the state. It’s contemplating a deal of its own with a smaller nonprofit in the Bay Area that provides some similar after-school programs along with services such as drug and alcohol prevention and treatment. Barth says the preliminary plans by Hoag and St. Joe’s to require super-majorities for votes on certain matters regarding the cultures of the two organizations offers a possible template. A like arrangement would give Think Together’s potential partner in the Bay Area some confidence that its culture wouldn’t be subsumed in a combination …

Don Sodaro could give you a pick of highlights as he marks his 25th anniversary as a member of Chapman University’s Board of Trustees, including a recent 11-year run as chair. Among the many that stand out are the much-higher profile for the film school; a new pharmacy school in the works; the development of Brandman University within the Chapman system; and various new buildings, including one named for Jim Doti last week. But one of Sodaro’s favorites blends into everything—by design. Sodaro says he still gets a big kick out of the way Chapman saved the front façade of the old Orange High School as part of its law school building.