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Sunday, Feb 5, 2023


Palmer Luckey had an eventful 2019—the technology wunderkind, with a growing role in next-gen military tech work, is one of seven Businesspeople of the Year featured in this edition (see the front page for more on Luckey’s year)—and he capped the year with a decidedly unique New Year’s Eve.

The Business Journal spoke with Luckey on the afternoon of the 31st, after the 27-year-old had gone flying in one of his helicopters: “I have a lot,” he noted, including a Black Hawk. His fondness for OC extends to John Wayne Airport, noting it’s a “pretty nice place to fly small aircraft.”

Later on NYE, Luckey was planning to go pick up, with a colleague from Anduril Industries, a military-grade boat used by the Marines and Navy SEALs that’s capable of traveling upwards of 60 knots (roughly 70 mph) on the water.

It’s not the only unique water vessel he owns. A submarine is currently parked in his garage, Luckey said. He said he recently bought a lot next to his waterfront home in Newport Beach to accommodate some of his larger vessels.

Who had the busiest NYE among area business execs? Perhaps Greg Custer.

The head of Whittier Trust’s Newport Beach office serves as Tournament Director for the Rose Parade, and as chair of float construction for the 131st edition, tested the floats prior to the event, and the day before the parade helped with the 15-mile drive of the nearly 40 flower-covered floats from Irwindale, where they are completed, to Pasadena.

With speeds topping out at about 4.5 mph, and two convoys of vehicles, it’s a six-hour-journey to the start of the parade for all the floats. A typical L.A. commute, then.

Floats with ties to two Businesspeople of the Year winners were involved in this year’s Rose Parade; a “Cultivate the Future of Farming” float sponsored by Chipotle (see page 1, and page 15 for CEO Brian Niccol’s views on sustainability in his firm’s business), and one from City of Hope (see page 10 for a profile of Annette Walker).

Bob Olson, our main BPOY winner last year, once again had one of the brightest and ornately decorated waterfront homes along the route of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade last month, but his construction firm topped him—height wise, at least—with their work in San Clemente.

R.D. Olson Construction (where Olson serves as CEO, and Bill Wilhelm is president) were sponsors for the “World’s Tallest Tree by the Sea,” a 115-foot Christmas Tree that made its way from Mt. Shasta to The Outlets at San Clemente in time for the holidays.

The construction firm also is handling work of a new 10-plex movie theater now underway at the mall for Steve Craig’s Craig Realty Group.

Chef Amar Santana got two big holiday gifts; he and business partner Ahmed Labbate’s The Hall: Global Eatery is now open at South Coast Plaza, see page 24 for Christopher Trela’s initial review.

Also new to the world: Amar’s son, Cyrus Santana, born Dec. 20.

How’s the Top Chef runner-up coping? “What’s sleep?” he quipped during a preview of The Hall late last month.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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