Board of Directors
Mark Scher • President
Mark Scher received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Pitzer College in Claremont, California. His expertise in the real estate industry spans more than 30 years, beginning as a successful real estate broker in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1983, he formed the first of ten Bay Area commercial development partnerships. In 1985, he co-founded the Scleroderma Research Foundation which was established to build centers for basic research into this devastating disease. In 1990, Scher Investment Group was formed and began developing and acquiring what would become more than 1.25 million square feet of commercial space over the next 10 years.
In 1994, Mark and Joseph Scher acquired Gamma Photo Labs, L.L.C., the largest and oldest commercial photo lab in the Midwest. In 1998, Mr. Scher acquired four CBD block in downtown Austin, Texas in which his team designed a 750,000 square foot “Class A” office project, received entitlements and sold the project to Intel Corporation within 18 months of the land acquisition. Currently, Mark resides in Santa Barbara with his three children.
Jeffrey Barbakow • Chairman
Jeffrey Barbakow began his career in 1969 as an investment banker with Merrill Lynch. During his 20-year tenure with the company, he focused on the health care, media and entertainment industries. From October 1988 to November 1990, Barbakow served as chairman, chief executive officer and President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists Communications Co. (MGM/UA). Under his leadership, the company re-asserted itself as a major force in the worldwide entertainment industry. Barbakow then returned briefly to investment banking from September 1991 to June 1993 as managing director of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corporation before joining Tenet Health Care. Under Barbakow’s leadership, Tenet became the nation’s second largest healthcare delivery system with 114 hospitals in 16 states. He remained with Tenet until 2003.
Barbakow holds a bachelor’s of science degree in industrial design from San Jose State University and a master’s of business administration from the University of Southern California. He also attended the University of Pennsylvania where he undertook advanced studies in economics. Additionally, Mr. Barbakow was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from Pepperdine University.
Mr. Barbakow is a member of the CEO Board of Advisors at the USC Marshall School of Business, the Chancellor’s Council at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and The Conference Board, Inc. He has served for six years as Trustee of Crane Country Day School in Santa Barbara, and for nine years as Trustee of The Thacher School in Ojai. Mr. Barbakow served as President for 5 years before becoming the Chairman of the Board of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
James R. Bechtel • Secretary / Treasurer
Jim Bechtel is the Senior Investment Manager in the Santa Barbara Private Banking office for Wells Fargo. He manages and designs customized portfolios for wealthy individuals, families, endowments and foundations
Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Jim managed taxable and non-taxable portfolios at Northern Trust Bank and Roxbury Capital Management. Additionally, Jim supervised the portfolio management team in Beverly Hills for Northern Trust. Jim has significant experience in the management of fixed income securities, particularly California municipal bonds. He began his 20+ year financial services career as an investment banker with the Capital Markets group at Security Pacific, and has served as managing director and principal of tax-free municipal bond firms.
Jim graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles with a BA in Economics and received an MBA from The Anderson School at UCLA. Jim currently serves on the Executive Board of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, as chair of the Investment Committee for Girls Inc, on the Endowment Committee of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, and is the former Treasurer of the UCLA Alumni Association. His not-for-profit activities have included five years as a director of The Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, seven years on the Decorative Arts Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, ten years in a number of positions with the Music Center of Los Angeles County, and a co-founder of Global Neuro Rescue (the international children’s neurological mission led by Dr. Jorge Lazareff of the Mattel Children’s Hospital).
Robert Brada • Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Brada is a consultant in the media and technology industries based in Malibu. Mr. Brada started his professional career as an associate in the corporate practice group at White & Case in 1990. Mr. Brada then joined the executive management team of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc where he played a key role in the $1.3 billion management-backed buyout of the studio in 1996. In 1996 he was named one of the top 3 young Hollywood executives in Hollywood Reporter magazine. Mr. Brada left MGM in 2000 to become a founder of Broadlane, Inc., a leading provider of outsourced services to healthcare providers, which he helped grow from 35 employees and no revenue into a 400-person company with $135 million in annual revenue. Since 2004, Mr. Brada has been a consultant, focused on advising capital providers and growth companies in the media and technology industries.
William Rosen • Audit
William Rosen is a New York attorney New York. He graduated from Union College, Columbia University Law School and New York University School of Law. He holds a Master of Law degree in Corporation Law. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa at Union College. Bill has extensive experience in municipal law holding principal legal positions in New York local governments and agencies. Bill was President of the New York State Association of County Attorneys. He was also engaged in the private practice of law with his parents and brother. Bill was a member of the Board of Trustees of Sullivan County Community College, a director of a local bank. After moving to California, Bill held positions in Santa Barbara Newcomers Club, served on the Santa Barbara Civil Grand Jury and has been appointed as a member of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee and is a Board member of SBIFF.
Russ Strobel • Development
Mr. Strobel complements the board of directors for SBIFF with his experience as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Nicor and Nicor Gas and serving on the board of directors for both companies. Prior to his role as president, Mr. Strobel served as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for the companies. Before joining Nicor in 2000, Mr. Strobel practiced law with several major firms in Chicago.
Mr. Strobel is a member of The Commercial Club of Chicago, a member of its Civic Committee, and a former member of the Executive Committee of the Commercial Club; a trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where he chairs the Audit Committee and is a member of the Finance and Executive Committees; a former director and executive committee member of the American Gas Association; a director of The Economic Club of Chicago; and a director and secretary/treasurer of the Illinois Business Roundtable.
Mr. Strobel is a graduate of Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He earned his Juris Doctor, Magna Cum Laude from the University of Illinois in 1977, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif. Mr. Strobel and his wife have a daughter and son. The couple resides in Winnetka, Illinois and Santa Barbara, California.
Mimi Armstrong deGruy is a Santa Barbara based documentary filmmaker and writer. In 1989, she became the President of The Film Crew, a company started in 1979 by her husband, the late filmmaker Mike deGruy. Together Mimi and Mike produced numerous hours of television for National Geographic Television, The British Broadcasting Corporation, WNET’s series Nature, The Discovery Channel, and many other broadcasters. They have received numerous awards including two EMMY awards, three CINE Golden Eagle awards, three BAFTA awards for cinematography, Gold Awards at the Houston International Film Festival, The New York International Film Festival, The Wildscreen International Film Festival, The Missoula International Film Festival and many others.
Prior to working with Mike deGruy, Mimi worked for CNN as a news writer, a researcher, an Associate Producer for CNN Medical News, and she was the Producer of a weekly segment with Coretta Scott King. She was an Associate Producer of Portrait of America, a 54-part series for TBS as well as an Associate Producer for the PBS series The Infinite Voyage.
Armstrong deGruy holds a B.A. from Yale University and is the proud mother of two children. She is an active community volunteer and is currently a long time board member of the Santa Barbara Middle School. She has served on the Sarah House Board, the Montecito Education Foundation and is a volunteer at other non-profits. Like her late husband, she is passionate about education and environmental issues, particularly those imperiling our planet’s oceans.
Susan Eng-DenBaars graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. She has lived in Santa Barbara for over 18 years and is an active leader in educational and community philanthropies. She is a current board member of the The Bluffs HOA. Her community leadership and support includes past Treasurer for the Goleta Education Foundation, PTA member, Red Cross Volunteer, and volunteer at her local public schools.
Prior to raising her family, Susan worked in budget and financial analysis in the College of Letters and Science at University of California, Santa Barbara and was Worldwide Planner in the Optoelectronics Division at Hewlett Packard.
Sarah Gorvitz is a Business Director with Moët Hennessy USA, where she is responsible for the company’s $50-million still wine portfolio, a 17-brand collection of the some of the world’s greatest estates, including Newton Vineyard, Cloudy Bay, Terrazas de los Andes, Chateau Cheval Blanc, and Chateau d’Yquem.
Ms. Gorvitz has held positions of increasing responsibility in marketing, business development, and corporate communications for the past decade. After joining a well-respected boutique public relations firm in New York City as an account executive, she moved into the wine and spirits space as head of the Marketing Department of Polaner Selections, a wine importer with a select, global portfolio. Joining LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in January 2005, she rose to the position of Business Director for 10 Cane Rum and Chopin Potato Vodka prior to being elevated to her current role. Sarah Gorvitz’s work has been widely recognized in her industry. In 2009, the 10 Cane brand, under her leadership, won awards in seven categories in the 25th Annual Beverage Dynamics Advertising & Promotion Competition, more than any other brand, and 10 Cane and Chopin won the gold and silver medal, respectively, at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Ms. Gorvitz received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Skidmore College, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and cat Sophie in New York City. Sarah is an avid amateur golfer and looks forward to playing what she understands to be Santa Barbara’s excellent courses.
A Chicago transplant to Santa Barbara in 1984, Robin Himovitz is the co-owner of Santa Barbara’s premier glamping resort, El Capitan Canyon. She and her husband Roger have owned El Capitan since 2000 and are proud of the destination it has become. Robin is committed to the enrichment of our Santa Barbara community and devoted to giving back to the community. Since 1994, she has been a major supporter of The Dream Foundation as a volunteer, as a Dream Host and in leadership roles for the local Flower Empower program. As the proud mother of four children, she has been a supporter of education, serving on the board of Santa Barbara Middle School from 2003 through 2012 (Diversity, Governance, Development Committees). Robin has been an active supporter and volunteer for the Fund for Santa Barbara, Old Spanish Days and Casa Esperanza. One of Robin’s passions is music and she has served as a supporter of local music programs and a volunteer for the Santa Barbara Bowl since 2009. In an effort to sustain cultures that are in danger, Robin is a co-founder and member of the Santa Barbara Summit for Tibet. Through her baking business Just Like Home, Robin bakes hundreds of sweets each week for local non-profits.
Robin is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a B.A. in Communications Arts. In her free time, she enjoys hiking the Santa Barbara mountains with her dogs.
A native of Santa Barbara County, Tammy brings a career in land development, local real estate, and design, to the board of the Santa Barbara Film Festival. She is very active in the non-profit community, having chaired fundraisers for local schools, the Dream Foundation, and has been a board member for the The Childrens Project for many years. In addition, she is committed to the environment, eating local organic foods, and is involved in the movement to eliminate single-use plastics from the planet.
Tammy’s contributes many hours of passionate dedication and expertise to local agencies, particularly to the arts and those helping children. She is raising her two sons in Santa Barbara with her husband Kim.
Kathy Janega-Dykes is a leader in one of Santa Barbara County’s biggest industries: tourism. She has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission since 2005. She is the driving force of the non-profit tourism marketing organization that works to enhance the economies of the city and county of Santa Barbara. The CVB & FC markets to sustain growth in visitor spending, to increase earnings for the hospitality industry, and to increase tax revenue and jobs for the community.
Janega-Dykes was formerly Executive Director of the Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau for six years. Prior to this she headed both the sales and then the marketing efforts at the Santa Barbara CVB & FC during her first tenure there from 1988 to 1998. Preceding this position, she served as a sales manager with Hyatt and Red Lion Hotels.
Janega-Dykes is credited for leading the Santa Barbara Bureau’s “Sideways” marketing campaign, when that film’s popularity put the Santa Barbara area in the ranks of California’s top wine tasting destinations. She repeated that success marketing with Universal Studios to promote Santa Barbara after the release of the popular film “It’s Complicated” in 2009/2010. As CVB & FC President, Janega-Dykes has spearheaded the promotion of Santa Barbara as a wine and food mecca and as a location for great film of the past and present. In her over site of the Santa Barbara Film Commission she successfully lobbied to increase funding from the County of Santa Barbara for its operations.
She is an active member of the Board of Directors for the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, the Western Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus and the California Travel Industry Association.
Kathy is wife of Joseph Dykes and mother of 18 year-old son, Colton. In her off hours she enjoys traveling, reading, cooking and kayaking.
A leader in the world of fashion marketing for over 25 years, Nancy guides marketing for UGG Australia across the globe. Since she started in this position in 2010, her efforts have been focused on creating integrated campaigns that establish UGG as a global, premium lifestyle brand for Men, Women and Kids. In addition, she played a key role in successfully launching UGG for Men, where she was honored by Footwear News in 2012 for “Best Launch.” Prior to joining UGG, Nancy held leadership positions at Guess, Jimmy Z/Ocean Pacific, Max Studio, Rampage Clothing Co. and Charlotte Russe. She also founded her own boutique marketing firm, MMG, which served footwear, apparel and entertainment clients with brand strategy, advertising, digital content and go-to-market strategy.
Eric Phillips is the founder and CEO of Phillips Enterprises, a national investment vehicle and the founder and CEO of Phillips Acquisitions, a national real estate acquisition company specializing in student housing. He is also the founder and CEO of Phillips Property Management, LLC, a real estate property management company specializing in student housing. Currently Mr. Phillips owns and operates 2,200+ student housing beds worth over $110MM in 4 states.
Mr. Phillips was also the founder and President of First Phillips, Inc., a Virginia-based real estate investment and management company, which he sold at the peak of the real estate market in 2006. He owned and managed 7,500 student housing beds.
Prior to starting his companies, Mr. Phillips joined Banc One as VP of the Commercial Real Estate Division and was in charge of the liquidation of over $200MM in assets within a diverse commercial real estate portfolio in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Texas.
Mr. Phillips and his Nina wife have had a strong commitment to the communities they live in, having provided consultation, program development, and fundraising assistance to numerous schools and non-profit organizations.
Mr. Phillips served on the Lorton Arts Foundation’s Board of Directors as Treasurer and Secretary. He successfully acquired $52 million in bonds for the cultural arts center, a historical former correctional facility which comprised 55 acres with 230,000 sf of existing buildings and 60,000 sf of new construction, which today provides Fairfax County with ongoing programs for the visual and performing arts and has over 100 onsite working artists.
He is currently serving on The Granada Theatre/Santa Barbara Center for The Performing Arts, Inc. Board of Directors in Santa Barbara, CA, which is home to the area’s finest performing arts. He sits on the Board, the Executive Board, the Finance Committee and Chairs the Development Committee.
He is also currently serving on the Santa Barbara Police Foundation Board.
Mr. Phillips was born and raised in California. He received a BA from the University of Texas at Austin. He resides in Montecito with his wife, Nina. They have three grown children, Ariana, a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Michael, a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, and Robert, a graduate of the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech.
L. Lee Phillips
A leader in the music industry for over 35 years, Mr. Phillips has earned a reputation for intelligence, creativity and integrity in representing major musicians, recording artists, composers, record companies and publishing companies. Mr. Phillips focuses primarily on contract negotiations within the music industry and acts as the general legal advisor to a multitude of artists and companies in this field.
His clients include a variety of internationally renowned performers including Barbra Streisand, Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach, The Eagles, Glenn Frey, Kenny Loggins, Randy Jackson, Steve Perry, Tracy Chapman and Yanni. Mr. Phillips’ broad base of knowledge enables him to provide his clients with strategic and tactical guidance, as well as the gamut of legal advice ranging from litigation, licensing and corporate issues to copyright, privacy, tax issues and the sale of publishing catalogs, among other matters.
Mr. Phillips began his career as a tax trial attorney with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He started in private practice in California in 1963 and steadily developed his entertainment clientele. In 1977, he joined the firm that was eventually named Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.
Ivan Reitman, as a producer and director, has created many of American cinema’s most successful and best loved feature film comedies and has worked with Hollywood’s acting elite. Reitman has produced such hits as the ground-breaking sensation “National Lampoon’s Animal House”, His directing credits include Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981) and Ghost Busters (1984). Reitman also produced the HBO telefilm “The Late Shift, ” based on Bill Carter’s non-fiction book about the late-night television wars which received seven Emmy nominations. In 1984, Reitman was honored as Director of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners and the next year received a Special Achievement Award at the Canadian Genie awards. In 1979 and again in 1989, for the films “Animal House” and “Twins, ” Reitman was honored with the People’s Choice Award. In November of 1994, Reitman became the third director honored by Variety magazine in a special Billion Dollar Director issue. Reitman was born in Czechoslovakia. He attended Canada’s McMaster University, where he produced and directed several television shorts. Reitman currently heads The Montecito Picture Company, a film and television production company, with partner Tom Pollock.
Mr. Schuster was founder, principal and a Member of the Board of Managers of CW Financial Services (CWFS), a leader in the commercial real estate finance industry. He served as the company’s Chief Executive Officer from its inception in 1992 until January, 2009.
As CEO of CWFS, Mr. Schuster built and led a dynamic and innovative organization of nearly 400 employees located in 12 offices throughout the UnitedStates. CWFS operated primarily through three subsidiaries:
CWCapital (headquartered in suburban Boston), a Fannie Mae DUS, Freddie Mac and FHA licensed company with a proprietary CMBS shelf that provided financing to owners of multifamily and commercial real estate. CWCapital’s peak annual loan originations were $3 billion and its highly rated primary loan servicing division had responsibility for $10 billion of loans.
CWCapital Investments (headquartered in New York City), a Registered Investment Adviser that provided high yielding commercial real estate debt opportunities to institutional investors through investment funds and separate accounts. CWCapital Investments had assets under management totaling $10 billion.
CWCapital Asset Management (headquartered in Washington DC), a highly rated, and the nation’s second largest, special servicer. CWCapital Asset Management was named special servicer for CMBS pools, CDOs and investment funds totaling $175 billion of underlying collateral.
Prior to founding CWFS, Mr. Schuster was employed in New York City in the Commercial Mortgage Finance units of Salomon Brothers and Bankers Trust. Mr. Schuster holds a B.A. from Tufts University. He currently serves on the boards of public and private companies, is an advisor to the Indian Institute for Sustainable Enterprise in Bangalore, India, and has been involved with local charities. In 2005, he and his family moved from Boston to Santa Barbara.
Since joining the Towbes Group 1997, Robert Skinner has served in a number of key leadership roles. He currently oversees all aspects of the company’s business as Executive Vice President and General Counsel. During his tenure, the Towbes Group successfully closed one of the largest leasing transactions in Santa Barbara county history. He also is Chief Operating Office and General Counsel of the Towbes Group-affiliate Montecito Bank & Trust.
In addition to his real estate and banking responsibilities, he is one of the founders and managing principals of Towbes Capital Partners, the real estate investment division of the Towbes Group. He is the chief executive officer of Agility Capital, a venture-debt fund he co-founded in 1999. Along with Michael Towbes, he formed and is managing partner of Twenty One East Victoria Investments, a firm focused on opportunities created by California’s central coast technology industry.
Prior to joining the Towbes Group, Mr. Skinner was an attorney with the international law firm of White & Case specializing in real estate transaction and bankruptcy work in the Los Angeles and New York offices. His legal expertise encompasses complex business litigation and construction and real estate law.
As a community leader, Mr. Skinner has served on the Boards of Directors of Montecito Bank & Trust, the Towbes Foundation, Barrister Executive Suites, the Santa Barbara Foundation, Camerata Pacifica and the development committee for the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Mr. Skinner is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Juris Doctorate.
Douglas R Stone
Douglas Stone is the founding partner of Stone, Meyer, Genow, Smelkinson & Binder, LLP and is the firm’s managing partner. His practice centers around two primary areas: the representation of talent clients (e.g., actors, writers and directors); and the representation of producers and entrepreneurial production companies in all aspects of the entertainment and related industries. In addition to deal making on behalf of his clients, Mr. Stone has played an active role in the packaging, financing and arranging for the exploitation of numerous films.
Mr. Stone is also a principal of Traction Media. Traction is a company created by Stone, Meyer, Genow, Smelkinson & Binder, LLP to further the interests of independent filmmakers. Traction represents films for the sale of distribution rights as well as produces and packages feature film projects. In addition, Traction assists equity financiers seeking film projects and works with production companies that need help packaging and/or setting up their projects. Through Traction, Mr. Stone has been involved in the sale of dozens of films.
Mr. Stone received a Bachelor of Science from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and his J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Stone began his law career with the law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, where he practiced in the firm’s Motion Picture and Television Department. Mr. Stone was named one of the “Power 100” entertainment attorneys by the Hollywood Reporter in 2007, 2008 and 2011.
He is a producer for both movies and television and was co-producer for Casper and executive producer for Stuart Little, Stuart Little 2.
He is currently executive producing the upcoming live-action/CGI animated Alvin and the Chipmunks movie., Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Founded in 1999 by Steve Waterman he owns Waterman Entertainment with sons Cooper & Tucker. President of US Movie Plus, a TV and film finance/distribution company, with business partner Mark Phillips.
Waterman Entertainment is a media and entertainment company that focuses on creating, financing and distributing film, television, and digital media properties across multiple platforms, as well as making strategic partnerships with, and investments in, media and entertainment-related companies and assets.
WE films have accumulated more than $1.5 billion in worldwide box office revenue.
Lynda Weinman, co-founder and executive chair of lynda.com, is a self-taught computer expert, author, educator, and entrepreneur. A Web graphics and design veteran and author of dozens of best-selling books, Lynda wrote the very first industry book on Web design, Designing Web Graphics, in 1995.
Before launching lynda.com, she was a faculty member at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and worked as an animator and motion graphics director in the film special effects industry. Lynda has also been a consultant for Adobe, Macromedia, and Microsoft, and has conducted workshops at those organizations in addition to Disney.
She, along with her husband and co-founder Bruce Heavin, evolved lynda.com from its original concept as a free web resource for her students, to the site for her books on Web design, to the registration hub for physical classrooms and conferences, to a highly successful online training library.