Faith, Family and the LA Dream
Rick Caruso’s grandparents, Augusto and Josephine, immigrated to America separately as teenagers, both coming from Italy through Ellis Island. They met, fell in love, married and eventually settled in Boyle Heights in the late 1920s. Augusto worked as a gardener, operating from the back of his pickup truck and planting the seeds for four thriving generations of family in the City of Angels. At their regular Sunday dinners, Rick’s grandmother relentlessly emphasized the importance of hard work, honoring the family name, keeping faith and giving back to their community.
Caruso’s father, Henry ran track at Marshall High, served in World War II and then attended the University of Southern California on the G.I. Bill. He achieved great early success in auto sales but took a massive personal fall in his career when he was indicted and served time for fraud. Rick drew the ultimate lessons from his father’s refusal to allow his mistakes to define him. Through his father, Rick learned the importance of redemption, and the value of offering people a second chance. After this setback, Henry founded Dollar Rent-a-Car, one of the most successful car rental franchises in America. Growing up, Rick attended Good Shepherd Grammar School, served as an altar boy and graduated from Harvard High. He received his bachelor’s degree from USC in 1980 and a law degree from Pepperdine in 1983, where he was later named Alumnus of the Year. Rick and his wife Tina have been married for 35 years and are the proud parents of four children: Alex, Gregory, Justin, and Gianna.
Opportunity Creator and Community Builder
Dubbed by Forbes Magazine the “Walt Disney Of Real Estate,” Rick founded Caruso in 1987, created tens of thousands of jobs and built Southern California’s most beloved community centers, including The Grove, which attracts more visitors per year than the Great Wall of China or Disneyland. Rick also built California’s first LEED Certified Gold business district project, Palisades Village. He has been named one of the most influential people in real estate six different times by the LA Business Journal and was named “Master Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst and Young.
Leading LA Philanthropist
True to his grandmother’s instructions, Rick has shared his success with Angelenos. The Carusos have donated over $130 million to various charitable causes, and his foundation is recognized as one of LA’s most impactful charities. Caruso donates 20 percent of his company’s profits to the community and gives millions annually to organizations providing healthcare and quality education to children in LA’s most deserving neighborhoods. Rick and Tina also established the Caruso Loan Forgiveness Fund which supports underserved students by relieving loan payments for up to ten years.
Led the Way for Reform at DWP
Rick served twice on the Department of Water and Power Commission where he made the public agency solvent and led the first initiative to embrace renewable energy. When he was first appointed in 1985 by Mayor Tom Bradley, he was the youngest Commissioner in history. When he was appointed again in 1997 and came back as President, the Department was once again financially unstable. Caruso worked with Department leadership, elected officials and independent experts and helped the Department recover from financial ruin by slashing billions in debt and cutting wasteful spending. He also oversaw the first initiative in Department history aimed at moving the DWP from fossil fuels to renewable energy, launched a rate relief program for low-income customers and helped end the nearly century-old “Water War” in the Owens Valley.
Reformed LAPD as President of the LA Police Commission
As President of the Police Commission, Rick brought together police officers, LAPD leadership, elected officials and community members to cut crime, to fight corruption, and to force real reform. Rick stood up to political pressure and made the hard decisions needed to make LA safer. He came to the presidency at a time of great turmoil for the LAPD with the Department operating under a federal consent decree. Caruso sought to restore public trust in the LAPD, especially with impacted communities through the implementation of community-based safety initiatives. Rick oversaw a 30 percent reduction in crime and overhauled police disciplinary procedures. He fought for community-led policing, demanded police accountability and selected Chief William Bratton, who is remembered as a transformational figure in the history of policing in the City of Los Angeles, due to his long track record of innovation in public safety.
Ended Corruption at the Coliseum Commission
When the Los Angeles Coliseum was plagued by mismanagement and corruption, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Rick to overhaul it. Rick initiated investigations to uncover corruption and cut waste. He then ushered in a public private partnership with USC that placed the Coliseum on sound financial footing to preserve and restore the historic asset. Rick also ended the “raves” at the Coliseum which had tragically resulted in drug overdoses, sexual assaults and public safety problems.
Forced Reform at USC
When Rick’s alma mater faced multiple scandals, Rick stepped in as Chair of the USC Board of Trustees to change the University’s culture, improve its leadership and diversify the Board. Rick empowered independent investigations to correct admissions processes and ensure accountability for those culpable in cases of sexual abuse, all while working to build coalitions to restore community and student trust.
Partnered With Government to Support State and National Covid Recovery
Caruso served on bi-partisan task forces by both the White House and Governor Gavin Newsom to help businesses and jobs recover during the COVID-19 Pandemic.