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Men of the Moment 2018

Wendy Bowman, Lauren Finney, Kim Lute & Ashton Pike | March 20, 2018 | People National

From powerful CEOs to film buffs and design savants, the number of noteworthy men that call Atlanta home is simply too great to tally. Here, we narrow down the count to six of the city’s most formidable males making waves in their industries.

WILL PACKER

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WHAT'S NOW
The owner of Will Packer Productions recently produced Girls Trip—the No. 1 live-action comedy of 2017—showing that a film starring four black women could score big at the box office.

WHAT'S NEXT
Two big film premieres: Breaking In (with Gabrielle Union, being released Mother’s Day weekend) and Night School (with Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, the breakout star of Girls Trip, coming out this fall). Also expect scripted and nonscripted shows for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, and digital series with partners such as Roma Downey and Hart.

“When I was a sophomore at Florida A&M University, I helped my classmate, Rob Hardy, ‘produce’ an independent film called Chocolate City—a coming-of-age story about life at our historically black college. We sent the film to every studio and agency in Hollywood. … Absolutely no one wanted it. But we got a huge response on campus; we were giving these college kids a story that they weren’t getting anywhere else. I saw that there was an immense market of people out there who weren’t seeing their stories or their lives reflected in mainstream entertainment. So, I moved to Atlanta and co-founded an indie film production company with the goal of getting these stories told. What I learned along the way—as I made bigger films and started working more closely with the major film studios—was that good stories are universal. I may be coming from a particular perspective, but if the story is good, it’s going to sell to everyone.”

BILL INGRAM

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WHAT'S NOW
This owner of Bill Ingram Architect made the leap to a permanent office at ADAC after going back and forth between Atlanta and his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., for years.

WHAT'S NEXT
Ingram is continuing to design more vacation homes at locales such as Alys Beach and Naples in Florida, and working as a brand ambassador for Serena & Lily at its Westside Provisions District outpost.

“When I was old enough to hold a pencil, I designed floorplans and built houses with Legos. I visited New York when I was about 12 years old, and seeing the big city and all of the skyscrapers was unforgettable. I remember coming home and drawing big buildings for a while instead of houses. A follow-up trip to Colonial Williamsburg cemented the idea of houses and architecture as my passion. After graduating from the Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction, I worked as an intern for about 12 years until receiving my license. In 1995, I opened my own boutique firm, working in a converted servant’s room in the garage behind my house before moving into a charming storefront office in Mountain Brook Village in Birmingham and now a studio space at ADAC. I truly love designing houses; I can immediately visualize any particular new house by listening to the client and being sensitive to them and their land. Often, this confidence enables them to completely trust me and end up with a house that far exceeds their expectations.”

DAVID CUMMINGS

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WHAT'S NOW
This past year, a number of things clicked for the Atlanta Tech Village founder. The tech hub had its best year ever, with startups he invested in adding 200 jobs locally and the addition of two partners to better serve entrepreneurs.

WHAT'S NEXT
After starting eight companies, Cummings now is helping other entrepreneurs pursue their dreams. He’s invested in 26 startups—including Yik Yak, Calendly, SalesLoft and Terminus—and plans on funding many more.

“As a ninth-grader in high school, I started my first software company and I was hooked. Finding my passion for tech and entrepreneurship early on made it easy to know what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I went to college at Duke University in North Carolina, where I had the opportunity to study with amazing people from around the world. My path was unusual in that I couldn’t wait to get out in the real world and be an entrepreneur. Even before I graduated from college, I was working full time on my startup and have been doing so ever since for 17 years. Success has come from seeing trends in the tech market, grinding out solutions and being as resourceful as possible. Building a company is much less glamorous than it appears, but is a tremendous journey at the same time.”

BRIAN WORLEY

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WHAT'S NOW
He is! Worley, a big name in Los Angeles, now makes his home in Georgia as the new director of design for Bold Catering & Design.

WHAT'S NEXT
Worley plans to push the envelope and create events for Atlantans that feel fresh and new.

“Producing a polo event for Prince William and Kate in Santa Barbara, Calif., stands out as a highlight of my career, as we handled every aspect of the event for more than 3,500 people—including security, a VIP lunch, sponsors and dealing with the palace, etc. It was one of those events I will never forget. As I continue my career with Bold in Atlanta, I hope to create weddings and events for clients that are not trend-driven but personality-based. I think it is important that an event tell a story and that the entire atmosphere radiate what the client is trying to convey—whether that be the love story behind a couple’s wedding, the worthy cause behind a charity gala or the brand vision driving the success of a corporate event. I love that Atlanta is exploding in so many areas; I think people here are incredibly receptive to ideas that are a bit outside the box and excited to try something new. I really love Atlanta—way more than I thought I would this soon after relocating to the city. I don’t really miss L.A., except for my friends, of course, and I love that I finally get to experience the seasons—and the cuisine! There’s nothing better than Southern food from a place like South City Kitchen, and it’s an added bonus of my job that Bold is owned by Fifth Group Restaurants. Hello, work perks!”

PEABO BRYSON

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WHAT'S NOW
For this singer-songwriter, everything is happening now—new baby, new reality TV show, dubbed Checked Inn, and new album.

WHAT'S NEXT
The multihyphenate prepares to perform his best balancing act.

“Becoming a father again at this stage in my career and life has been incredible. I already have a daughter, so I didn’t think I’d be this anxious. I don’t remember it being so exhausting, but I’m loving it! The album is due this month. Expect classic Peabo, with a little bit of everything on the album. And I couldn’t have done it with anyone else. I’m certain Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis will help me to connect with new fans as well as those who love classic Peabo Bryson. Checked Inn gave my wife and I a chance to not think about errands or housework. It allowed us to check in—a change in energy does that. We’ve talked about traveling more as a result just to spend time together.”

DIETMAR EXLER

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WHAT'S NOW
The Austria-born president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA just unveiled the brand-new Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters in Sandy Springs.

WHAT'S NEXT
The powerhouse is managing the shift in headquarters location, from moving employees to getting settled in the new space.

“It’s not quite the same if you’re a renter versus an owner, and this is going to be our permanent home. It’s about 200,000 square feet. Employees, guests, visitors, everyone will walk through the same doors in the entrance hall. We want our people to work together, so our building is a whole lot about we-space and not so much about me-space. We looked at many other office buildings and picked the best of everything. We wanted to be wide and open, and we achieved that—we have about 100 conference rooms. We wanted to have a fitness center and a childcare facility. We have dry-cleaning services; we have the coffee bar, the cafeteria. … We’re going to have an executive chef here, [and] 25 percent will be sourced locally. [Atlanta] has a lot to offer. People here are just very friendly and very nice; it’s a pro-business climate.”



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Photography by: Sarah Dorio, Jemal Countess & Jeff Roffman