SCOOTER BRAUN, 35
Founder, SB Projects
Last Year’s Rank: 30
For Braun, 2016 was a year of growth. His talent management and media-venture company SB Projects gained a client in Kanye West; lost, then won back, Ariana Grande; and added film and TV staff to its Beverly Hills headquarters (Ben Sheehan and James Shin, heading digital development, film and TV, and Jordan Brown as VP of social impact) — all while celebrating Justin Bieber‘s comeback, replete with Grammy nominations and a tour that grossed $159 million. Outside the office, Braun’s second son, Levi, was born on Nov. 29. He also devoted much energy and time to Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. “I’m trying my best to juggle it all and still be present,” he says of life on Los Angeles’ West Side with his wife, Yael, and family. “I learned that there’s power in being still.”
How did you navigate Grande’s exit?
I had seen a lot of managers get fired and react very loudly. But I told my staff to let our work speak for itself. I didn’t want to bash somebody I care about; We need to let our values and our work speak for itself and it come back around. My relationship with Ariana very quickly started to be repaired. And actually we’re stronger now than we were before and we’ve had a tremendous amount of success.
To what do you credit your success with West?
?Kanye can be opinionated, loud, thoughtful and rogue as hell, but at his core, he’s a great guy. He makes you believe in the impossible, and I thought I was the dreamer.
What did you learn from this election cycle?
That we should communicate with each other respectfully — and listen. I put up a tweet a few weeks ago and some kid tweeted back, “F– you.” So I DM’d him and said, “Send me your number, I’d love to talk about it.” He’s a Palestinian activist out of Chicago. We were on the phone for two-and-a-half hours and now we’re going to figure out stuff we can do together.
Would you ever run for office?
A friend of mine texted me not long after the election, “We need to be the leaders we’re waiting for” and that was the first time I ever thought about it. But I don’t think my wife would like that. And I don’t know if it’s politics that I should go into if I want to make the biggest difference. It might be doing what I’m doing now — the content business because that’s how we can educate and help each other.
Do you still meet people who inspire you?
Yes, but they’re usually not famous. I look at what my wife, [the founder of F—k Cancer], does, and many times, the people who are so impressive to me are the siblings or the parents who are sacrificing everything for someone else. They’re people leading extraordinary lives.