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Saturday, Jul 13, 2024

Profile

CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter As the former chairman and chief executive of Atlantic Richfield Co. and a longtime Sherman Oaks resident, Lodwrick M. Cook has ties to business and community leaders on both sides of the Sepulveda Pass. From that vantage point, the 70-year-old former oil man believes the San Fernando Valley would achieve more if it seceded from the city of Los Angeles. “The city’s not going to hell in a hand basket. I’m not suggesting that,” he said. “My gut instinct, though, says if you get politicians closer to where the issues are, they’re more accessible, more accountable and more responsive.” Although Cook left Arco in 1995, he has hardly retired. He serves as chairman of a Westlake Village-based company called Litex Inc. that makes auto emission control devices. He also bought a golf driving range in Las Vegas and a string of fast-food restaurants in Southern California. Most recently, Cook signed on as co-chairman of Global Crossing Ltd., a fiber-optic telecommunications provider that went public in August. Cook has been traveling the globe to help open new markets. The company is developing four major sub-sea cable systems worth $3 billion. The first system, linking the U.S., Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, began operation in May. Question: How well do you think local government is working? Answer: We have a fine mayor in Los Angeles. He’s a dedicated public servant who obviously came from the private sector. And you certainly have dedicated people (downtown). But because of the city’s size and so many services it has to provide to so many constituencies, it’s not easy to get things through. I just feel local government should be local and the closer you get government services to the residents, the better it’s probably going to work. That’s not a unique concept. At Arco, I worked hard to decentralize authority in order to get better efficiencies and better results. That’s where I’m coming from. Q: Is the Valley getting the attention it deserves? A: It’s a very big city, and the councilmembers’ focus naturally is on the areas they represent. My gut feeling is, the Valley could achieve more if it was on its own, in terms of providing services for its residents, in terms of development that could come about as a result of more focused attention by political leaders in the area. Government doesn’t create jobs, but government can create an environment in which good things can happen. That’s not to say we’ve been totally ignored up here. That’s not true, I’m not suggesting that. But if I lived elsewhere I’d say it ought to be looked at. That’s a big area, that’s a lot of people. Q: Why not try to fix the city’s ills through charter reform instead of having the Valley secede? A: We could improve on the current model, I suppose. I am concerned that the mayor just doesn’t have more authority to lead and do things. But apart from that, I’d like to see the Valley get on its own. There are ramifications both ways, both politically and economically, that would have to be looked at. I don’t know what the economics might be, the taxes, how the services will be provided and so forth. But everything I know about people and organizations tells me that if you give people more power, they perform better, generally speaking. Q: How do people on the other side of the hill perceive the Valley? A: I don’t think they see a great deal of cohesiveness on the part of the Valley. It doesn’t have the same kind of muscle that you might see from other areas of the city, the same political muscle. We’ve obviously had some leaders from the Valley who have served the city well, Bert Boeckmann being one. And other leaders like David Fleming and Bob Selleck who have done many things. There are people out here who take a great interest in Los Angeles. Certainly as chairman and CEO at Arco I spent time working on behalf of the city. But I do think the Valley is somewhat taken for granted. It used to be a bunch of orchards back in the old days, ranches. It’s come a long way. Q: You’ve said the riots, after the acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King, marked a turning point for Los Angeles. What did you mean? A: I have the feeling we couldn’t believe it happened again. It sort of shook us. Just the notion that our city wasn’t working. Some aspects to that riot were opportunistic, but obviously there was a great deal of frustration. City Hall and the Police Department weren’t working well together at the time, which exasperated the problem. You can’t just shrug it off and say, “well, it was a reaction to the trial,” or “it was hot,” or so forth. It indicated a more fundamental problem. Q: You started with Arco in 1956 as an engineering trainee and worked your way up to CEO. What advice would you give other executives looking to advance? A: I don’t know that there’s any one key to success. A lot of it is how you prepare, through your education. Also, part of anyone’s success is something that has been defined as the emotional quotient, the ability to get along with people and motivate people those social skills. I’ve seen a lot of very bright people hit a wall because they can’t communicate with others. Or if the communication is there, it’s so offensive it turns people off. In my case, I tried to make people feel we’re in it together. Let’s have some fun and achieve, that they can benefit from that not only personally but financially. I guess whatever you’re trying to do, you just have to have a certain zest and passion for it. That brings other people along with you. Q: How did you get involved in Global Crossing? A: Gary Winnick, the chairman, founder and principal shareholder, and I knew each other casually through Republican circles. And he had a small telecom company he wanted an outside director on, as opposed to the various partners, and he asked me to come aboard. And I did. I was curious about telecom, and that grew into this global fiber-optic cable system. Q: What’s driving the market for a global fiber-optic system? A: Deregulation has helped out, and the need for bandwidth, the ability to move both data and voice communications. As deregulation has taken over and prices have come down, people use the Internet more and more, sending e-mails around the world to each other, pictures, videotapes and faxes. As prices continue to come down there will be more volume and more growth. And we’re going to be a part of that, a big part of it. Telecom companies need a place to move voice and data communication across the water, and we provide that opportunity. There have been other cables built before, but we’re the first true independent.

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