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Ernst & Young names Orange County Entrepreneurs of the Year

The 5 regional honorees are revealed in the prestigious business awards

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: June 08, 2012 12:05 PM

Back row L to R: Christine Divine, Andy
Fathollahi, Joe Kiani, Jonathan Russo. Front
row, L to R: John Raymont, Gary Jabara,
Mike Morhaime
Last night, Orange County’s top business executives and firms flocked to the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point for the annual Ernst & Young Orange County Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

Almost 500 attendees filled a ballroom at the resort to fete the 15 finalists with dinner and cocktail reception, and to learn the 2012 Orange County Entrepreneurs of the Year. The evening included video presentations of the nominees and their companies, and was MC'd by Christine Divine, anchor of Fox 11 New.

The awards program by Ernst & Young LLP, one of the largest professional services and accounting firms in the world, recognizes innovative leadership and business executives in more than 140 cities in 50 countries around the world. This year marks the 26th year for the program.

Fifteen finalists from local companies were nominated in four categories: Business Services, Real Estate and Hospitality, Life Sciences and Public Service, Technology, and Consumer Products. A Youth Scholarship Award was also announced.

“All the finalists exhibited tremendous fortitude and innovation in their respective fields” said Kim Letch, a partner at Ernst & Young and the Entrepreneur Of The Year program director for Orange County. “The winners showcase the entrepreneurial spirit that is the driving force behind the economic and employment growth in Orange County and beyond.”

From an original pool of 75 nominations, Ernst & Young narrowed the field to 40 semifinalists, who were interviewed by a judging committee comprised of top executives from the region’s leading firms and former Entrepreneur of the Year Award recipients.

The awards began with the Youth Scholarship Award, granted to Jonathan Russo, a 17-year-old student who came up with an innovative idea of adding a misting system to tent shades by integrating the nozzles, tubes and hardware into the frame of the shade itself.  

In the Business Services category, John Raymont, founder, president and CEO of Kurion Inc., was selected as the first corporate honoree of the evening. Kurion, a technology and services company specializing in proprietary methods for the isolation and removal of nuclear waste from the environment, was a large player in the cleanup of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan following last year’s destructive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that disabled the plant. Other finalists in the category were Mike Manclark of Leading Edge Aviation Services, and Heidi Gollege of CyberCoders.

Real Estate and Hospitality nominees included David Kim and Jerome Fink, co-founders and managing partners of The Bascom Group, and Alessandro Pirozzi, chef and owner of Cucina Alessa, an Italian restaurant in Newport Beach. Selected as the 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year for the category was Gary Jabara, founder and CEO of Mobilitie LLC. Jabara’s innovation was the creation of a “real estate management” service company for cell phone towers, a growing necessity in a highly connected and mobile world. Jabara developed a business model that created economies of scale, allowed for scalability for current and future technologies, and save owners money. Mobilitie now owns thousands of wireless communication towers throughout the country and is also the owner and operator of the largest distributed antenna system network in the nation.

Life Sciences and Public Service included finalists Dan Merkle, chairman and CEO of Lexipol LLC, and Charles Dunlop, CEO of Ambry Genetics. Joe Kiani, chairman and CEO of Masimo Corp., received the award as Entrepreneur of the Year for his role in building up his successful medical device company. Focused on improving patient monitoring devices, Kiani set out to solve issues plaguing these pulse oximetry devices by using adaptive signal processing. In 2007, the company went public with a successful IPO. Today, Masimo employs more than 2,000 people worldwide.

For the Technology category, Blizzard Entertainment president, CEO and cofounder Mike Morhaime was selected for his role in developing a small game development firm into one of the most successful gaming companies worldwide. With its three franchise titles, World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo, and its online game service, Battle.net, Blizzard Entertainment has millions subscribers worldwide. In May, the company released its latest game, Diablo III, hosting thousands of midnight release parties at retail locations across the country and recording 6.3 million copies sold within a week of the game’s release. Other nominees in this category were Jonathan Ord, CEO of DealerSocket Inc., and Jim McCluney, CEO of Emulex.

In the category of Consumer Products, finalists included Jeff Walker, president of Super D, and Bill Duehring, president of Felt Racing. The Entrepreneur of the Year Award went to Andy Fathollahi, CEO of Incipio Technologies. Fathollahi’s firm designs and manufactures cases, covers and accessories for mobile devices. Observing the growth in popularity of mobile devices, Fathollahi sought out to capitalize on the growing market, focusing his company on delivering exceptional products through superior engineering. The company’s maxim is “The Art of Protection.”

The five honorees from Orange County will go on to the National Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year program, held in November in Palm Springs, where business leaders will receive awards in several categories and a National Entrepreneur of the Year will be named. The U.S. award winner will then be a part of the worldwide Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards program.

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