Richard Riordan

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Richard Riordan
Magic Johnson and Richard Riordan (cropped).jpg
Riordan at the Magic Johnson Theatres opening at Baldwin Hills Mall in 1995
39th Mayor of Los Angeles
In office
July 1, 1993 – July 1, 2001
Preceded by Tom Bradley
Succeeded by James Hahn
Personal details
Born Richard Joseph Riordan
(1930-05-01) May 1, 1930 (age 87)
Queens, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Eugenia Warady (divorced)
Jill Noel (divorced)
Nancy Daly (divorced, deceased)
Elizabeth Gregory
Children five (two deceased)[citation needed]
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater Princeton University (A.B.)
University of Michigan (J.D.)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1952–1955
Rank First Lieutenant
Battles/wars Korean War

Richard Joseph "Dick" Riordan (born May 1, 1930) is an American investment banker, businessman, investor, and politician who served as the 39th Mayor of Los Angeles, California serving from 1993 to 2001. He is a member of the Republican Party. To date, Riordan remains the most recent Republican to serve as Mayor of Los Angeles.

Pre-political life[edit]

Riordan, an Irish-American, was born in Flushing, New York and raised in New Rochelle in Westchester County, New York.[1] 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.

Business career[edit]

Riordan's investment activities in the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s focused primarily on venture capital opportunities in the computer, medical and semiconductor sectors. In 1982, he co-founded, together with J. Christopher Lewis, a private equity firm which is now called Riordan, Lewis & Haden.

During this time as an attorney for another venture capitalist, USC Professor Chuck Cole, Riordan made an early investment in an Irvine, California technology startup founded by Orange County entrepreneur Jon Wimer. Together, Riordan and Cole invested the first $100,000 in Triconex, whose business plan called for a fault-tolerant controller called the Tricon. The company was not an early success because of the cost of developing and certifying such a complex system. After the industrial accidents at Bhopal and Chernobyl however, there was a need for an industrial safety system and it turned out that the Tricon platform was the right product for the times. With an engineering team led by Gary Hufton, the Tricon eventually became the world's leading industrial safety system, a ranking it still holds today. Chuck Cole was an active member of the board while Triconex was an independent company, and the company was sold for 90 million in January, 1995 to a British company. This was just one of the many successful ventures that Riordan provided the seed money for during his career.

In 1983, Riordan also co-founded Riordan, Freeman & Spogli, a private equity firm, along with Bradford M. Freeman and Ronald P. Spogli. The firm was an early sponsor of leveraged buyout transactions, with an initial focus on the supermarket sector. Grocery chain acquisitions led by Riordan, Freeman & Spogli included Bayless Southwest (Phoenix), Boys Markets (Los Angeles), P&C Foods (Syracuse), Piggly Wiggly (various Southern states) and Tops Markets (New York and Pennsylvania). In the late 1980s, Riordan ceased to be a member of Riordan, Freeman & Spogli, and the renamed Freeman Spogli & Co. continued to pursue leveraged buyouts of businesses across a range of industry sectors.

The Riordan Foundation[edit]

Riordan created The Riordan Foundation in 1981 with the goal of helping people to acquire the skills necessary to compete successfully in society. The foundation works to teach children how to read and write at an early age and to nurture leadership skills in young adults. Now, more than 25 years later, the Foundation has encouraged computer-based, early childhood literacy programs and youth development and leadership programs with over 2,300 graduates. Through its Rx for Reading programs, The Riordan Foundation has distributed over 23,400 computers to a number of schools and provided books purchased for elementary classroom libraries.


When Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley announced his retirement, Riordan's interest turned to the 1993 mayoral election. It was to be a pivotal election for several reasons. Bradley had served in office for five terms, so the winner would be the first new face in two decades. During this time Los Angeles had witnessed a dramatic rise in crime, especially gang violence, traffic, and other problems damaging the city's quality of life. The booming economy of the previous three decades had fizzled. Racial tensions had risen with the LAPD under Chief Daryl Gates, who was under sharp criticism for his tactics. Overshadowing all of these was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which followed the state-level acquittal of the four LAPD officers charged with the videotaped beating of African-American motorist Rodney King.

Riordan and Mike Woo, City Councilman for Hollywood, emerged as the leading candidates in a fierce and bitter race. Although municipal elections in California are non-partisan, the news media observed that Republican Riordan and Democrat Woo contrasted starkly. Riordan campaigned as a businessman "tough enough to turn L.A. around". He promised to crack down on crime, stating that "from a safe city, all else follows," by hiring 3,000 additional police officers, and to shore up the city's finances and business environment by reducing regulation and contracting private firms to operate LAX. Riordan spent several million dollars on his campaign out of his own pocket. Woo's campaign criticized the police and attacked Riordan as too wealthy and too white to understand the issues of concern to the ordinary Los Angeleno.[citation needed]

On election day, Riordan won a decisive victory, 54%–46%, becoming the first Republican mayor in over thirty 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 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 reelected in a landslide against California State Senator Tom Hayden.[2]

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, a project close to his heart. 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.[3]

Riordan tackled the problem of governing the sprawling city by spearheading the creation of neighborhood-based councils, to provide community organizations a way to participate in governance. He paid special attention to improving the state of the Los Angeles Unified School District; while he had no direct jurisdiction over that body, he campaigned heavily for reform-oriented candidates. In 1999 he backed a City Charter reform that curtailed the ability of members of the City Council to block reforms.

Riordan was succeeded in 2001 by James Hahn after being term-limited out of office; in fact, 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 advisor 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.[citation needed]

2002 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%.

One controversial aspect of his loss was the fact that Governor Gray Davis' campaign spent millions of dollars running attack ads against Riordan, essentially helping the Simon campaign. It is very rare for a candidate to try to influence the other party's primary in such a manner; however, 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.[4]

California Secretary for Education[edit]

When Davis faced recall, there was speculation that Riordan might run for his office. However, after friend and fellow moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his intention to run, Riordan decided against running himself. He endorsed Schwarzenegger, and, following his victory, served on his transition team, and was appointed to the cabinet as Secretary for Education. Riordan left the position on June 30, 2005.

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.[5] It was never published. Riordan put the project on hold when he was appointed as secretary for education.[6]

Involvement in city politics since 2000[edit]

In the 2001 election for Mayor, Riordan endorsed his friend and advisor 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 major 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-Councilmember Eric Garcetti.[7]

Personal life[edit]

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.


  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ "4/22/97 Primary Nominating Election: Final - Official Results". Los Angeles City Clerk Election Archives. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  3. ^ Mascaro, Lisa (April 24, 2005). "MTA consent decree drives different reactions in L.A.". The City Project Blog. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ "General Election - Statement of Vote, November 5, 2002". California Secretary of State. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Roderick, Kevin (November 8, 2003). "Next week in the LABJ (L.A. Business Journal)". L.A. Observed. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  7. ^ Linthicum, Kate; Zahniser, David (March 20, 2013). "Richard Riordan backs Wendy Greuel for L.A. mayor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 


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