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. 21  Barbara Lee

Founder and President, Barbara Lee Family Foundation

Lee may be known for her ICA fundraising, but she’s also a top donor to the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the Essex Art Center, and MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. Plus, she’s dedicated to getting women — including Elizabeth Warren — elected to office.


No. 22  Anthony Pangaro

Principal, Millennium Partners — Boston

Filling the Filene’s memorial pit in Downtown Crossing =  instant inclusion on this list.

No. 23  Diane Paulus

Artistic Director, American Repertory Theater

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

When it comes to theater, Boston has long had a sleepy reputation. Thanks to Paulus, that’s no longer the case: She’s sold out shows in three theaters; dedicated her group to edgy thrills and musical innovation; and has a leading role in creating the Emerging America theater festival. She’s also propelled Boston up the ladder of great American theater cities, while still keeping ties to local writers (The Blue Flower) and subject matter (The Friends of Eddie Coyle).


No. 24  Richard Davey

Secretary and CEO, Massachusetts Department of Transportation

After overhauling the MBTA as its general manager — improving on-time rates, reducing customer complaints — Davey was rewarded when Governor Patrick promoted him last September to head of MassDOT. He’s now on the verge of convincing pols and the public alike to accept fare hikes on public transportation in order to reduce the authority’s staggering $161 million deficit. This guy owns your commute.


No. 25 John Kerry

U.S. Senator

We’re still not sure if we should forgive him for his sad-sack 2004 presidential campaign, but he’s our state’s senior senator, the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, and the third-wealthiest member of Congress ($193 million!). He also has a good shot at becoming secretary of state. We just wish we saw him around here more often.


No. 26

Scott Brown

U.S. Senator

Elizabeth Warren


Let’s be real: Given this state’s penchant for reelecting politicians — our current Congressional delegation has served a collective 200 years in office — whoever wins this race will probably be a senator for the foreseeable future. Warren has proven to be a strong fundraiser ($5.7 million in 2011’s fourth quarter), while Brown has been relatively moderate in hyperpartisan DC — he broke with the Republicans on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We can’t wait for the debates.


No. 27  Tracy Campion

Real Estate Titan, Campion and Company

Saying Campion is a real estate agent is like saying Tom Brady is a football player. Sure, she moves high-end properties, but she’s also intimately involved with planning Back Bay developments, and has helped keep Boston’s toniest neighborhoods mostly immune to the economic crisis. Campion’s a supreme connector — she can find the right buyer for almost any property — and she’s absolutely devoted to sensitive development in our historical city.


No. 28  Amos and Barbara Hostetter


They’re one of the wealthiest couples in Boston, thanks to billions from Continental Cablevision. Their Barr Foundation has $1 billion in the bank. They’re tight with Menino. Need we say more?


No. 29  Wendy Shattuck

Socialite and Philanthropist

Her husband, Sam Plimpton (an investor at the Baupost Group), may have made the money, but Shattuck knows how to leverage it. She’s connected with the New England Conservatory and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, but it’s her control over the exclusive Country Club’s new membership list that puts her among the elite.


No. 30  Jeffrey Leiden

President and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals

The newly minted head of Vertex is leading his team to a new $900 million waterfront headquarters — a move that will result in more biz relocations there, earning him major credit with politicians and developers.



  • 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.