Richard Riordan

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Richard Riordan
Richard Riordan 1990s.jpg
39th Mayor of Los Angeles
In office
July 1, 1993 – July 1, 2001
Preceded byTom Bradley
Succeeded byJames Hahn
Personal details
Richard Joseph Riordan

(1930-05-01) May 1, 1930 (age 92)
New York City, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
  • Eugenia Warady
    (m. 1955; ann. 1977)
  • Jill Noel
    (m. 1980; div. 1998)
  • Nancy Daly
    (m. 1998; died 2009)
  • Elizabeth Gregory
    (m. 2017)
Alma mater
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1952–1955
RankUS Army O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First Lieutenant
Battles/warsKorean War

Richard Joseph Riordan (born May 1, 1930) is an American investment banker, businessman, lawyer, and former Republican politician who was the 39th Mayor of Los Angeles, from 1993 to 2001. Born in New York City and raised in New Rochelle, New York, he served in the United States Army during the Korean War before becoming a lawyer and investor in Los Angeles, eventually specialising in private equity.

In 1993, he was elected mayor of Los Angeles and was re-elected in 1997. He ran unsuccessfully for Governor of California in the 2002 California gubernatorial election, losing the Republican primary. After leaving politics, he continued to work in business. As of 2023, he is the most recent Republican to have been mayor of Los Angeles.

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Riordan, an Irish-American, was born in Flushing, Queens, and raised in New Rochelle, New York.[2] He graduated with an A.B. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1952 after completing a senior thesis titled "A Study of the Thomistic Faculty Psychology."[3] He then received a J.D. from Michigan Law School in 1956.[4] He moved to Los Angeles to begin work as an attorney for the downtown law firm of O'Melveny & Myers in 1956, leaving in 1959 to become a partner of Nossaman LLP; he was a founding partner of the law firm Riordan & McKinzie in 1975.[5] In 1982, he was a founder of the private equity firm Riordan, Lewis & Haden.

Mayor of Los Angeles[edit]

Riordan with President Bill Clinton in 1993

When Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley announced his retirement, Riordan's interest turned to the 1993 mayoral election. On election day, Riordan won, 54%–46%, becoming the first Republican mayor in over 30 years. Many of his proposals were blocked by the heavily Democratic City Council or proved simply unfeasible in reality; for example, the police academy did not have enough classroom space and instructors to train as many new police officers as Riordan had initially promised. He streamlined certain business regulations and established "one-stop" centers around the city for functions such as permit applications. He feuded with police chief Daryl Gates' successor, former Philadelphia police commissioner Willie Williams, but oversaw a general decline in crime. (In 1997, Riordan replaced Williams with LAPD veteran Bernard Parks.) That year, he was re-elected against California State Senator Tom Hayden.[6]

Riordan's tenure was marked by a controversy over the massive cost overruns occurring during the construction of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Red Line subway. At the same time, a previously little-known group called the Bus Riders Union sued the city – on the basis of racial discrimination – over diversion of funds from buses to Red Line construction, and managed to force it into a ten-year consent decree in 1996 that eviscerated MTA funding for the construction of subway and light rail projects. Riordan has publicly regretted having signed the consent decree and counts it as the biggest mistake of his mayoral tenure.[7]

Riordan was succeeded in 2001 by James Hahn after becoming the first Mayor of Los Angeles to be term-limited out of office; it was Riordan who spearheaded the city's term limit ballot initiative, prior to becoming mayor. In the mayoral primary election that year, Riordan had endorsed his adviser and friend Steve Soboroff. Soboroff came in third in the nonpartisan race, and Hahn and former California State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa advanced to the runoff. In the runoff election, Hahn defeated Villaraigosa, whom Riordan endorsed for the second round of balloting. Villaraigosa would go on to beat Hahn in a 2005 rematch for Mayor.[8]

2002 California gubernatorial race[edit]

In 2002, Riordan, a moderate Republican, decided to seek the governorship. He was opposed in the Republican primary election by conservative businessman Bill Simon and former California Secretary of State Bill Jones. Although he led early in the race by over 30%, he eventually lost to Simon by 18%. Riordan was hampered by a conservative Republican party base that rejected his appeal to move the party toward the centre.[9]

Governor Gray Davis' campaign spent millions of dollars running attack ads against Riordan, essentially helping the Simon campaign. Davis felt that he had a much better chance against the conservative Simon than the moderate Riordan and that the move was worth the risk. Riordan lost the primary, and Davis went on to defeat Simon 47%–42% in the general election.[10]

The Los Angeles Examiner[edit]

In early 2003, Riordan began circulating a prototype of a weekly newspaper he intended to begin publishing that June. The Los Angeles Examiner was intended to be a locally focused, sophisticated, and politically-independent publication.[11] It was never published. Riordan put the project on hold when he was appointed as state secretary for education by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a position he held from 2003 until his resignation in 2005.[12]

Involvement in city politics since 2000[edit]

In the 2001 Los Angeles mayoral election, Riordan endorsed his friend and adviser Steve Soboroff in the primary and Antonio Villaraigosa in the general election. In 2005, he backed former State Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg in the primary and Antonio Villaraigosa in the general election. In both races, he chose not to endorse James Hahn.

Riordan has played a role in City Council elections, becoming a supporter of candidates Bill Rosendahl in 2005, Monica Rodriguez in 2007, and Adeena Bleich in 2009. Rosendahl won the election in the Eleventh District; Rodriguez lost to Seventh District Councilman Richard Alarcon and Bleich lost to Paul Koretz and David Vahedi who advanced to the runoff election. In 2013, Riordan endorsed mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel. Greuel was ultimately defeated by then-Council member Eric Garcetti.[13]

Personal life and legacy[edit]

Riordan & McKinzie merged into Bingham McCutchen in 2003. Riordan is the owner of the Original Pantry Cafe in Los Angeles, which has been in operation since 1924. He also owns Gladstones Malibu which has been open since 1972. The Richard J. Riordan Central Library is named after him.


  1. ^ Clifford, Frank (July 11, 1993). "Mystery Mayor : He's Got 40,000 Books, Friends All Over Town, and a Reputation as a Soft Touch. He's a Risk-Taker and Problem Solver. Yet He Can Be Absent-Minded, Inarticulate, Contradictory and Downright Sloppy. Can a Entrepeneur-Turned-Politican [sic] Lead L.A.?". The Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Bonfante, Jordan (June 21, 1993). "Hizzoner the CEO L.A.'s New Mayor Is a Manager in The Perot Mold". Time. Los Angeles. Retrieved November 7, 2015.(subscription required)
  3. ^ Riordan, Richard Joseph (1952). "A Study of the Thomistic Faculty Psychology". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "U.S. History: Biographies - Richard J Riordan". Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  5. ^ Riordan & McKinzie merges with Boston firm. (n.d.). L.A. Biz. Retrieved September 4, 2021, from
  6. ^ "4/22/97 Primary Nominating Election: Final - Official Results". Los Angeles City Clerk Election Archives. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  7. ^ Mascaro, Lisa (April 24, 2005). "MTA consent decree drives different reactions in L.A." The City Project Blog. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  8. ^ "Hahn, Villaraigosa to fight rematch in L.A. mayoral runoff". East Bay Times. 2005-03-10. Retrieved 2022-10-06.
  9. ^ Wildermuth, John (2002-03-06). "SIMON WINS BIG / Riordan's collapse sets up showdown for governor between GOP neophyte, Davis". SFGate. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  10. ^ "General Election - Statement of Vote, November 5, 2002". California Secretary of State. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  11. ^ Wood, Daniel B. (January 30, 2003). "In L.A., a new tabloid from its ex-mayor". The Christian Science Monitor. San Bernardino, CA. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  12. ^ Roderick, Kevin (November 8, 2003). "Next week in the LABJ (L.A. Business Journal)". L.A. Observed. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  13. ^ Linthicum, Kate; Zahniser, David (March 20, 2013). "Richard Riordan backs Wendy Greuel for L.A. mayor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 7, 2015.