The 50 Most Powerful People in Boston

In the city of Boston, demonstrations of power are nothing new. We’ve been throwing our weight around since the days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Today, as ever, some people in town just know how to get things done whether through intelligence, charm, enormous, piles of cash, back room deals, or just sheer force of will. After talking to scores of insiders across the area, we ranked the city’s heavy hitters and examine power in all its forms—from political muscle and business influence to cultural capital and social networking.

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Boston's most powerful people.

Photograph by Gary Land

THESE KINDS OF RANKINGS typically emphasize traditional power — politics, finance, industry — but we’ve set out here to look beyond the rule makers, to find the rule breakers. That means the players charting new directions for our city. That means people like Rich Miner of Google Ventures (who’s helping to turn the city into Silicon Valley East) and Ralph de la Torre of Steward Health Care (who’s reinventing the hospital business) ranked right up there with the pols and investors. Mayor Tom Menino, of course, remains the alpha and omega of the city: You can’t put up a building, get elected, or snag the right permit if you’ve crossed him. On the other hand, if you’re in with him, the possibilities are endless. So to save everyone the effort, we’ve simply removed the mayor from consideration. Below, we present the 50 most powerful people in Boston — not named Tom Menino.

 

 

The Power List

 

No. 1  John Fish

Chairman and CEO, Suffolk Construction

Name a building in Boston, and Suffolk Construction probably put it up: the convention center, the cardiovascular center at Brigham and Women’s, the cancer research center at MIT, and even the tower that’s about to go in that hole in the ground in Downtown Crossing. While other projects stall in front of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Fish’s sail through. Suffolk’s solid work is a big reason why, but so is the relationship Fish has cannily developed with the mayor over the years — he has two former Menino chiefs of staff on his payroll. Factor in all of his philanthropic work — Suffolk’s Red & Blue Foundation is the main force behind Menino’s pet Boston Scholar Athlete Program — and Fish is simply the guy who can get things done.

 

No. 2  Jack Connors

All-Purpose Power Broker

If there’s a board, he sits on it. If there’s a charity, he fundraises for it. If there’s a string, he’s pulling it. Connors may be stepping down as chairman of the Partners HealthCare board this summer, but he’ll still have plenty of juice: The Hill Holliday founder is an Obama fundraiser and a major benefactor of Boston’s Catholic schools as well as Camp Harbor View, one of Menino’s favored projects. The only thing he hasn’t done in town is buy the Globe — yet.

 

No. 3  Carmen Ortiz

U.S. Attorney, District of Massachusetts

Two and a half years into the job, and Ortiz has already overseen the convictions of former Speaker Sal DiMasi, former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, and former City Councilor Chuck Turner. Next up: Whitey Bulger. We don’t like his odds.

 

No. 4  Deval Patrick

Governor, Massachusetts

Patrick is now a governor in full: He’s stood his ground with the legislature (he won the casino showdown with Robert DeLeo); he’s combined all the transportation departments under the auspices of MassDOT; and he’s actually boosted the 2013 budget by 3 percent. If President Obama is reelected — and his cabinet undergoes the usual second-term wave of resignations — his good buddy and national campaign cochair will be on the shortlist for an appointment. Attorney General Patrick, anyone?

 

No. 5  Martha Coakley

Attorney General, Massachusetts

What a difference a couple of years make. After Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the 2010 special election for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, she became Democrata non grata. Since then, she’s worked diligently to redeem herself by, among other things, leading a group of state attorneys general that filed suit against foreclosure-happy banks (result: $318 million in settlement money for state homeowners) and recovering hundreds of millions more in corruption and criminal cases. Reputation recovered.

 

No. 6  Therese Murray

President, Massachusetts Senate

Her counterpart in the House, Robert DeLeo, has grabbed the lion’s share of press attention, but we expect Murray to outlast him. Besides avoiding scandalous headlines, she has an iron grip on the Democratic-controlled Senate.

 

No. 7  Robert DeLeo

Speaker, Massachusetts House of Representatives

After finally getting his casino bill through (by compromising with Patrick and Murray), DeLeo passed a pretty major municipal healthcare-reform bill over the protests of the unions — both strong moves. But everyone’s concerned that the federal investigation of the probation department could blow up in his face, or those of his political allies.

 

No. 8  Anne Finucane

Global Strategy and Marketing Officer, Bank of America

Cool and collected — and married to columnist and commentator Mike Barnicle — Finucane is an insider and master negotiator with connections to everyone from Barney Frank and the Kennedys to Bill Clinton and Robert Kraft. And given the fact that she helps lead a company with 7,000 employees in Massachusetts and more than 250,000 worldwide — and possesses marketing skills that have enabled her to change the way Americans think about banks — she holds even more sway here than Bank of America’s CEO, Brian Moynihan.

 

No. 9  Ned Johnson and Abigail Johnson

Father-Daughter Dynasty, Fidelity Investments

With more than $1.5 trillion in assets, Fidelity is the largest private company in the state and the 20th largest in the country. After 35 years at the helm, Ned Johnson has begun to step back — he remains the chairman and CEO of the parent company, but handed over the title of chairman of the mutual funds business to his daughter Abigail early last year. Not a coup, but just the latest in a painstakingly slow process that points to Abby eventually being anointed head of Fidelity.

 

No. 10  Rich Miner

Partner, Google Ventures

Boston’s tech scene has begun to roar, and Miner may be its leading voice. As a partner at Google Ventures — which set up shop in Kendall Square in 2009 — the creator of the Android operating system has the company’s checkbook, and has used it to fund major upstarts such as Recorded Future, Scvngr, and HubSpot.

 

Opening photo by Gary Land; Profile photos by Scott M. Lacey

  • Rick

    Wait until you find out what they charge for those wristwatches you advertise…

  • Reality

    If power is about influence, leverage and day-to-day affect on lives, I’d vote for Cindy Fitzgibbons, the guy who owns Sal’s Pizza, Steven Tyler, and that awesome lady who works in the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru window. While most of the clowns on this list are busy stroking each other,& paying for articles about themselves, others are actually affecting lives and inspiring people. If Cindy needs volunteers for a cause, I’d follow her before any of these people.

  • eggy

    “No. 38 Occupy Boston
    They came. They camped. They cost us as much as $60K in cleanup fees. But Occupy was more than a drawn-out demonstration of disgruntled 99 percenters in Dewey Square. It was an example of how a movement can voice a strong (if muddied) complaint against social and economic inequality without resorting to violence.” and accomplishing nothing.

  • Elizabeth

    The No. 1 most powerful person in Boston is congradulated for projects that he did not even complete. Two and a half of the projects referenced were Berry projects prior to Suffolk buying them out. They were successful due to the hard work and teamwork of the BERRY Team, not Suffolk.

  • You

    You don’t think Numero Uno is a number 1? Connect the dots on this list. Some of the elected officials on the list help procure taxpayer funded $ for the local hospitals. The hospital heads on the list, decide to build buildings for themselves. They call their friend, Fish, and give him the $ to build. He makes token donations to election campaigns, and pet charities (from $ squeezed from subs)and keeps the bulk for himself. Those donations help get officials re-elected. Sounds like everyone is working for him. That makes him a number 1 in my book.

  • Ralph

    Wow. It’s like Fish and Menino are straight out of Boardwalk Empire. How impressive! “if you’re in with him, the possibilities are endless.” Does hiring his son and former staffers = being in with him? I guess so. Pathetic.

  • John

    Of course, “powerful” does not imply honestly, ethics, fairness, respectability, generosity or intelligence. Look at Khadafi, Hussein, drug lords etc. Ironically, Fish used the same PR firm (The Monitor Group) as Libya.

  • Big

    That’s true…Fish taking credit for work done by Berry years before he swallowed (and excreted) them, would be like Ochocinco taking credit for the Patriots’ past Superbowl wins! Welcome to the team…try not to screw it up.

  • Mark

    Not being able to get things done if you’ve annoyed the mayor sounds an awful lot like corruption.

    If so, why are we celebrating it?

  • Look

    This is weird. In the group photo of the power players, cover-up everyone except Martha Coakley. By herself, she seems to have a Mona Lisa smile, and an air of integrity. Now, uncover John Fish. Suddenly, Martha looks sneaky, conniving and guilty of something. It’s like Fish’s aura rubs off on everyone around him.