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Dealmakers wield clout in public and behind the scenes in Utah

Published: Saturday, Aug. 29 2015 3:51 a.m. MDT

Thirty-eight car dealerships. The Delta Center. The Utah Jazz. Jordan Commons. Four dozen stretch T-shirts and about 1,000 ideas a day.
That's Larry H. Miller — Utah's top dealmaker. So say 30 insiders who helped the Deseret News pick the most influential people in the state.
He's followed in that honor by industrialist/philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., Gov. Mike Leavitt and local developer Kem Gardner — also ranked as top dealmakers in Utah.
Miller says he's probably seen as a dealmaker because of some his high-profile acquisitions and developments.
In recent years his face is seen all over TV — car ads for his dealerships, giving Jazz players high fives during pre-game introductions.
Miller is affable, candid and accessible — three things the media love.
"Boy, I'm kind of opening myself up here," Miller told two Deseret News reporters during an interview where he talked about his business philosophies, his manic work habits and personal aspects of his family life.
A confessed workaholic who today regrets missing much of his children's upbringing, Miller said he "almost died" while overseeing the Delta Center construction a decade ago. "I was working 20-hour days for nearly 200 days straight. Sometimes I honestly thought it would kill me."
Miller is pleased to be called a dealmaker. "To me, that's meaningful. I suppose some of that is ego. It's gratifying that people think of me in those terms. I consider that a compliment, something worthwhile to be known for."
As his Jordan Commons restaurant/entertainment facility is finishing up, Miller said he has no immediate plans for another "big deal." But something will come up. "It always does."
Huntsman, the No. 2 dealmaker, is the owner of the largest privately held petro-chemicals company in the world.
Not only has he acquired, over the past 20 years, chains of chemical firms throughout the world, he's brokered a number of civic-minded deals behind the scenes while starting a world-class cancer research center at the University of Utah Medical Center.
"My life has been for 40 years a series of acquisitions," Huntsman said. So he can understand why he would be ranked in the dealmaker category.
"It's been a series of dealing with peoples of many countries of many backgrounds. Most of our endeavors have been reasonably successful. But my life has been filled with a series of very large negotiations. Many of them multinational negotiations. I feel quite at ease trying to separate potential problems, keeping failure away from success, because that's how I've chosen to spend my life," Huntsman said.
Leavitt said he's probably known as a dealmaker because, on the rare occasions when he has to kill something, he tries to do that quietly, behind the scenes, so as to not embarrass the people who may be pushing an ill-advised issue.
"Frankly, I'd much prefer to be known as a dealmaker, someone who pro-actively makes good things happen as opposed to someone who would just look for ways to stop other people's ideas," the governor said.
Gardner, president of The Boyer Co., is currently overseeing construction of the large Gateway project in Salt Lake City near the Delta Center. For 28 years he and partner Roger Boyer have worked to build more than 11 million square feet of commercial space throughout the Mountain West, including putting together some tough projects others didn't believe would fly.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com; lucy@desnews.com

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