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OCBJ INSIDER

A love for music runs deep among our collection of Business People of the Year winners, profiled in this edition.

For Masimo’s Joe Kiani, a scroll through his Twitter feed suggests a fondness for Roger Waters-era Pink Floyd, and he was scheduled to speak at the 2020 edition of hipster music conference South by Southwest (which was ultimately cancelled), as part of his affiliation with political education group A Starting Point.

See Jessie Yount’s front-page feature for more on Kiani’s rock star year.

Kingston Technology co-founder and CEO John Tu leads a well-known band—“JT & Friends”—that plays benefit and charity performances.

And the avid drummer is still playing despite the pandemic that has squelched live gigs for the band that he says numbers nearly 50 musicians.

The band’s already done a few virtual performances, he said.

“We come together one-by-one and then pull it together,” Tu tells our Kevin Costelloe of the band’s rehearsals. “It came out just amazing. It’s exciting. You don’t have to be together when you make music.”

Tu also confirmed the oft-repeated story that Kingston takes its name from the 1950s- and 1960s-era Kingston Trio folk singers.

“They really inspired me in the way they do it, and the message they were giving at that time,” he said.

Business partner David Sun joked that Tu’s love of music, and the size of the JT & Friends band, has forced OC’s largest private company by revenue to tweak its business strategy.

“For years, all the money we make—other than John Tu, we had to support John Tu’s band—all the money [goes back into] the company,” Sun quipped.

“David likes to joke around,” a company spokesman noted after the interview.

In-N-Out’s employees are just as adept at putting on a good set as they are serving up really good burgers and fries.

Corporate events take on a different meaning at the Irvine burger chain where President and owner Lynsi Snyder fronts the rock band .48 Special, whose name is more of a nod to the company’s 1948 founding in Baldwin Park than a homage to 1970’s rockers 38 Special.

Besides singer Snyder, who also plays bass guitar and occassionally rhythm guitar, the band’s roster touts company vice president Rob Howards, divisional managers Michael Rodrigues, Tony Morales and Greg Nogle, and regional manager Robert Concepcion, among others.

Sean Ellingson, Snyder’s husband, an Army vet, and president of the Army of Love philanthropic foundation, plays lead guitar.

They’ve performed mostly at company events, such as picnics, or charity events. Like JT & Friends, live performances dried up in 2020.

“It’s a pretty cool group of people,” said Snyder, speaking to our Kari Hamanaka in late December. “A lot of these people had laid down their instruments, and this was a way we got them to pick them back up. This has been a way for them to use that talent and that hobby, so it is kind of cool.”

The four-year-old band has so far performed covers but that could change, with Snyder having written 10 songs that’ll be put to music at some point in the members’ free time—in-between running the iconic burger chain.

Said Snyder of those recording those tracks: “Some day.”

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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