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.

No. 11 Gary Gottlieb

President and CEO,  Partners HealthCare

If Massachusetts is the testing ground for national healthcare policy, Gottlieb is the one setting the agenda. In the past year, he sliced insurance premiums with a new Blue Cross Blue Shield contract and started a new nationwide plan to decrease Medicare expenses. However we ultimately solve the crisis in healthcare costs, Gottlieb and Partners will have a hand in it.


No. 12  Ralph de la Torre

Chairman and CEO, Steward Health Care

He’s the wheeling-and-dealing underdog to Gottlieb’s grandfatherly figure. De la Torre and the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management converted Caritas Christi — a struggling nonprofit community-hospital network — into the for-profit Steward Health Care, and somehow balanced the concerns of the Boston Archdiocese, the unions, and the politicians. And he hasn’t let up, throwing fundraisers for Obama, Patrick, and Coakley; swiping doctors from other local hospitals (150 physicians came over from Beth Israel Deaconess); and even delivering a convincing argument in Bloomberg Businessweek for how to cut healthcare costs. If de la Torre keeps it up, he’s going to find himself in charge of Obamacare.


No. 13  Joe O’Donnell

Potential Casino Titan

Even after selling Boston Culinary Group, the longtime concessions king is still packing plenty of punch. A close friendship with Menino has helped O’Donnell, who owns 31 percent of Suffolk Downs, scare off competitors who might want to challenge the track for the rights to a casino license.


No. 14  Menino’s Court

These are the people who execute the mayor’s vision — and control how you live, work, and play. Key players: Mitchell Weiss (the whiz-kid chief of staff with the HBS degree); Michael Kineavy (the chief of policy and planning and 17-year Menino adviser); Ed Davis (the police commissioner who deftly handled both the Occupy Boston protests and the Bruins Stanley Cup celebrations); Carol Johnson (the school superintendent who’s overseeing the proposed new lottery-assignment system); and Nicole Freedman (the bike czar who instituted the Hubway bike-sharing program).


No. 15  Marty Baron

Editor, The Boston Globe

Fresh off taking down Sal DiMasi, Baron’s paper exposed DeLeo’s patronage scandal at the probation department. Meanwhile, the Globe investigation into the bloated salary of Michael McLaughlin, the well-connected head of the Chelsea Housing Authority, threatens to stain figures as high ranking as Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray.


No. 16  Ted Kelly

Chairman, Liberty Mutual, Board of Trustees Chair, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Kelly stepped down after 13 years as CEO of Boston’s insurance giant — a stretch that saw him grow revenue from $8 billion to $34 billion — while spearheading a sponsorship of the Boston Pops’ Fourth of July extravaganza. He remains Liberty’s chairman, and is also serving as head of the BSO’s board of trustees, where he’s been tasked with filling the most important cultural job in the region — finding a new musical director.


No. 17  Robert Kraft

Chairman and CEO, New England Patriots

The most influential owner in America’s biggest sport, Kraft is universally credited with rescuing the last NFL season from labor strife. He’s also politically wired (tight with the gov), so don’t bet against his Foxboro casino bid.


No. 18  John Henry and Tom Werner

Principal Owner and Chairman, Respectively, Boston Red Sox

Want to know what power is? The Sox were able to cut a deal with the city granting them air rights on Lansdowne Street (for the Green Monster seats) and permission to take over Yawkey Way on game days — all for just $186,000 a year. A Red Sox town, indeed.


No. 19  Joe Fallon

President and CEO, the Fallon Company

There was no bigger Boston real estate deal in 2011 than Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ move from Cambridge to a $900 million office and lab complex at Fallon’s Fan Pier on the South Boston waterfront, a deal that’s spurred development in the whole area.


No. 20  Paul Grogan

President and CEO, The Boston Foundation

Grogan is the head of an $850 million philanthropic octopus, with a hand in giving out $80 million in grants every year to area non-profits, including homeless- relief organizations, arts institutions, and academic think tanks.


Correction: In the print version of this story, we misidentified Joe Fallon. He is the president, CEO, and founder of the Fallon Company, and is responsible for the development of the Fan Pier on South Boston’s waterfront. We regret the error. 


  • 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.