Rick Joseph Caruso
January 7, 1959
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Education||University of Southern California (BS)|
Pepperdine University (JD)
|Occupation||Real estate businessman|
|Political party||Democratic (2022–present)|
|Republican (before 2011)|
|Children||4, including Justin|
|Relatives||Henry Caruso (father)|
Rick Joseph Caruso (born January 7, 1959) is an American billionaire businessman. He is the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Caruso, an American real-estate company. Currently serving as chair of the board of trustees at the University of Southern California, Caruso has been president of the Los Angeles Police Commission and a member of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. A former member of the Republican Party, Caruso changed his affiliation to the Democratic Party when he became a candidate in the 2022 Los Angeles mayoral election.
Early life and education
Caruso was born in Los Angeles. His father, Henry Caruso, was the founder of Dollar Rent-A-Car and owner of many car dealerships in the Los Angeles area. His mother Gloria was a billboard model in her youth. Rick received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern California in 1980, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the Trojan Knights and a J.D. degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 1983 as a Margaret Martin Block Scholar. In 1995, he was recognized as the Alumnus of the Year by Pepperdine School of Law.
In 1987, he founded Caruso, a company that develops, owns and manages properties such as The Grove at Farmers Market in Los Angeles, the Americana at Brand in Glendale, the Commons at Calabasas, the Promenade at Westlake, The Lakes at Thousands Oaks (leased from the City of Thousand Oaks), 8500 Burton Way (Waterside Marina del Rey), Palisades Village in Pacific Palisades, and the Rosewood Miramar Beach in Santa Barbara.
During his tenure as CEO of the company, the company was accused of engaging in practices designed to chill free speech over the rejection of an advertisement for a documentary about the Armenian Genocide by Caruso's mall, Americana at Brand (in Glendale, California) on two occasions, in 2015 and in 2017. While there were public protests about The Americana's decision, Caruso disputed the claims and affirmed his commitment to treating everyone fairly and with equal respect. The advert decision was later reversed.
He has lectured on real estate issues at the Kennedy School of Public Administration at Harvard University, the USC Price School of Public Policy and the Milken Institute Global Conference. Caruso participates annually as a guest panelist for the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Politics and public service
In 1985, at the age of 26, Caruso was named by Mayor Tom Bradley to serve as a commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, becoming the youngest commissioner in the history of the city.
In August 2001, Caruso was appointed by Mayor James K. Hahn to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners and was elected its president. In this role, he led the selection process that resulted in the hiring of former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton as the Los Angeles Chief of Police. During Caruso's tenure as president of the Police Commission, the crime rate in Los Angeles dropped 37.3% from 2002 to 2006 a much smaller decrease during his 5 year tenure than the previous 5 years or the following 5 years after he left.
In 2008, Caruso was elected to serve as a member of the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, which oversees the operations of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and nearby Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. During his tenure on the commission, Caruso advocated for its reform, including the resignation of its general manager, and the replacement of the commission itself with a new governing body. He advocated a ban on rave parties at the two venues.
In 2015, Caruso funded a voter initiative to bypass local planning laws and the California Environmental Quality Act in order to build an outdoor mall in Carlsbad, CA. That initiative passed but a subsequent referendum overturned it and required a public vote – Measure A. The measure failed and the mall construction was blocked. All together, Caruso spent $12 million in less than a year on getting the project approved. This spending included television ads, mailers, and consulting services.
In 2016, the L.A. Times reported that Caruso, his affiliates and family, had given more than $476,000 to L.A. city officials over the past five years; during this time Los Angeles City Hall approved numerous building projects. In 2020, Caruso gave $2,800 to Win the Era, a Democratic super PAC started by Pete Buttigieg.
Los Angeles mayoral campaign
In 2019, he expressed interest in running in the 2022 election. This consideration was made public during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Caruso was chosen to assist the White House in facilitating America's future recovery from the disease. He gave multiple interviews during this time on prioritizing small businesses during the recovery. Caruso launched his campaign for the 2022 election on February 11, 2022, the day before the filing deadline.
Caruso Family Foundation
In 2013, the Foundation pledged $5 million to Operation Progress, a Watts-based non-profit founded by Los Angeles Police Department officers, which will guide more than 200 students from elementary school through college graduation.
In addition to USC and Pepperdine, Rick Caruso has made significant donations to Los Angeles academic institutions including Loyola High School and Brentwood School, which 3 of his children attended.
Caruso and his wife, Tina, established the Caruso Loan Forgiveness Fund which covers the law school loan payments for ten years for low-income and other underserved students.
In October 2019, Caruso donated $50 million to Pepperdine School of Law, resulting in a name change to the Rick J. Caruso School of Law, in recognition of the gift. The gift is directed to historically underrepresented students as well as to students pursuing public interest law.
University of Southern California
Caruso's daughter, Gianna "Gigi", was born with hearing loss and was treated at USC's Keck School of Medicine. In 2015, Caruso and his wife Tina donated a further $25 million to USC, to endow and name the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.
In 2018, Caruso was elected Chairman of the USC Board of Trustees and has since faced criticism for his handling of the George Tyndall USC sexual abuse scandal, in which a USC gynecologist spent 30 years molesting hundreds of patients, despite complaints dating back to 1991. In May 2018, Caruso promised an independent investigation and an accompanying public report, but no report on the investigation has ever been made public. Though the case was settled in March 2021 for $1.1 billion, Tyndall's victims' attorney John Manly continues to demand transparency from Caruso and USC, and a release of the investigation's findings. On February 15, 2022, Caruso announced he will be stepping down from the USC Board of Trustees.
In 1995, Caruso was named Alumnus of the Year by Pepperdine School of Law.
Rick Caruso and his wife, Tina, have four children: Alex, Gregory, Justin, and Gianna. They live in the affluent Brentwood section of Los Angeles. All four children have attended the University of Southern California, which their father attended and to which he has donated millions of dollars. Caruso, through a trust, paid for a $4.4 million mansion in Pacific Palisades for his son Justin. Caruso is a devout Catholic.
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Born with hearing loss, Gigi Caruso was treated by doctors at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. In 2015, Rick and Tina Caruso donated $25 million to the school to endow and name it the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, known for research and treatment of ear, nose and throat diseases.
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