Senior-level hires and promotions for the week of February 13, 2017



Javier Fernández has joined Holland & Knight as a partner in the firm’s South Florida government advocacy and development group. He previously was a shareholder with Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson. He also has been chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz. Fernández has a bachelor’s from Colby in Maine and a J.D. from the University of Miami.

Jimmy Forrest has been named senior vice president for commercial lending at Marquis Bank in Coral Gables. He most recently was senior vice president at Eastern National Bank. Forrest has an MBA from New York University.

Biana Murnane has been named executive vice president and chief financial officer at BrightStar Credit Union. She began at the business in 1997 as a controller. Murnane, a CPA, has a bachelor’s and master’s from Florida International University.


At Trivest Partners, based in Coral Gables:

▪ Todd Jerles has been promoted to chief operating officer and principal. He was previously promoted to principal in 2011. He has a bachelor’s in economics from Indiana University and an MBA from Wharton.

▪ Brian Connell has been promoted to principal. He joined the firm as vice president in 2013. Connell has a bachelor’s in computer science and finance from Boston College and an MBA from Harvard.

▪ Amir Mirheydar has also been promoted to principal. He joined the firm as a vice president in 2014. Mirheydar has a bachelor’s in industrial engineering and management science from Northwestern University.


Auggie Cipollini has been named president of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. Until recently, he was the senior vice president of operations at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Cipollini, a CPA, has a bachelor’s in accounting from Widener University in Pennsylvania.


Aren D. Laljie has been named the chief financial officer of Pediatric Associates, headquartered in Plantation. He was previously the CFO of ColumbiaDoctors, the physician practice for Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital. He has a bachelor’s and master’s in business administration from Bernard M. Baruch College of CUNY in New York.


At Akerman, several new partners have been named, including three in the Miami office who have been promoted:

▪ Darryl Graham, in the litigation practice group. He has a B.S.B.A. from the University of Florida and a J.D. from UM, where he is an adjunct professor.

▪ Leanne Reagan, in the tax practice group. She has a bachelor’s in political science from UF and a J.D. from Duke; LL.M. from NYU.

▪ Ilana Tabacinic, in the litigation practice group. She has a bachelor’s in economics, and a J.D., from UM.

Jose L. Torres has been promoted to partner at Alvarez Barbara,, based in Miami. He focuses his practice on real estate, insurance defense and commercial litigation. Torres has a bachelor’s in criminal justice from FIU and a J.D. from Western Michigan University.

Leonard C. “Lane” Atkins IV has joined Ballaga & Freedman, based in Coral Gables. Lane, who focuses on business and real estate litigation, was previously a partner at Devine Goodman Rasco & Watts-FitzGerald. He’s a graduate of Florida State University and has a law degree from George Washington University.

Effie D. Silva has joined Duane Morris as a partner in the firm’s Miami office. She focuses her practice on complex business disputes, healthcare, corporate fraud, among other areas. Silva was previously at McDermott Will. She is a graduate of Wellesley and has a law degree from UF.

Rafael A. Aguilar has joined the Miami office of Shutts & Bowen as a partner in the firm’s real estate practice group. Before, he was one of the founding partners of Jones Day’s Miami office. Prior to that, he was the founder and national co-chairman of Akerman’s Latin American and Caribbean practice. Before moving to Florida, he was at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City. Aguilar has a bachelor’s from Yale and a J.D. and an LL.M. in taxation from NYU.


Richard Borjas has been promoted to vice president, production at Telemundo and will continue to be based in Miami. He was a senior producer. Borjas has a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from FIU.


Carolina Pina has been named director of Babson College’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab Miami. She is the former director of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Miami Campus. Pina has a bachelor’s in industrial and systems engineering from FIU and an MBA from Rice.


Arturo Cepero has joined Blanca Commercial Real Estate as vice president of finance and controller. Cepero, a CPA, was previously a supervisor in assurance and advisory services at Kaufman Rossin. Cepero has a bachelor’s in business administration from Emory and an MBA from Indiana University.


At VMR Products, two Miami-based employees have been promoted:

▪ Miriam Martinez-Soto, to vice president, e-commerce & online marketing, from online marketing director. She has a bachelor’s in international business from the University of North Carolina and and a master’s in global marketing from UM.

▪ Matthew Peon, to vice president, operations, from operations supervisor.

This column lists high-level promotions of senior executives at the director level and above who are based in South Florida. These announcements, which also are at, are for full-time, paid positions. Send items, including previous job; educational background; and jpegs of head shots, to

See past senior-level hires and promotions in South Florida for 2017:

▪ Jan. 2, 2017

▪ Jan. 9, 2017

▪ Jan. 16, 2017

▪ Jan. 23, 2017

▪ Jan. 30, 2017

▪ Feb. 6, 2017

Mover’s spotlight

Name: Joanne Li

New position: Dean of the College of Business at Florida International University. She will begin in May.

From: Dean and professor of finance at the Raj Soin School of Business at Wright State University near Dayton, Ohio.

Education: Li, who came to the United States as an international student from Hong Kong, has a bachelor’s and Ph.D. from Florida State University.

About: Li began her career at Loyola University Maryland and later was chair of the finance department at Towson University. A chartered financial analyst since 2001, she was a speaker for the CFA Institute for many years and has given talks around the world on the value of corporate governance, her research focus. She also was an editor-in-chief for the Stalla CFA program, and was the associate editor and a past editorial board member for the Financial Analysts Journal.

Also: Li is the vice president for the Council of Chinese American Deans and Presidents and treasurer for the MidAmerican Business Deans Association. She was the American Association of State Colleges and Universities 2016 Millennium Leadership Institute protégé and is a graduate of Harvard’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education.

Best advice she ever received: All the mistakes you made amount to the better person you are today. Be thankful and be humbled. Work hard and accumulate your 10,000 hours. (”10,000-hour” is referenced in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.”)

Choices for Spotlight are made from promotions sent to