Rick Caruso's Retail Empire
by Michael Ventre
When you've been the youngest commissioner of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP), make that the youngest commissioner of any department in LA city history, at the age of 25 and two years later its president; when you’ve served as president of the LAPD Police Commission, are currently a member of the board of trustees at USC and have built some of the largest and most ballyhooed real estate projects in the nation—including the Xanadu of shopping, dining and browsing known as The Grove—what’s left?
Someday Phil Jackson might retire, and the Los Angeles Lakers will need a coach. Gustavo Dudamel eventually will have to hand over his Los Angeles Philharmonic baton.
Then there’s the mayor’s chair. Billionaire developer Rick Caruso has been mentioned for that position more often than Philippe has been asked for a French-dip sandwich. Well, almost.
“I think that’s on the back burner for now,” says Caruso. “I get approached about a lot of different things. I’m going to think about it. I have no interest in running for governor; people have encouraged me to run, but I have no interest in that. I may do the mayoral thing at some point. Is it better to be the king than the kingmaker?” he asks. Good question.
Right now, he’s arguably the king of all that is brick and mortar in the Southern California region—at least when it comes to retail development. Besides doing the near impossible ofcreating and maintaining the old-new synergy of The Grove and Farmers Market—the complex gets more than 18 million visitors a year—his company, Caruso Affiliated, also built The Americana at Brand in Glendale, another retail amusement park. In the works are The Miramar Beach Resort and Bungalows, The Shops at Santa Anita and an 88-unit luxury high-rise in Beverly Hills with a Trader Joe’s on the ground floor.
All of this has been possible in part, he says, because of his early experience working for the city. “I was a very young guy when I was at DWP,” says Caruso. “I got a good understanding of how the political process works—how the bureaucracy worked in City Hall. It really opened my eyes as to how things get done.”
When he isn’t gazing across the Los Angeles skyline and envisioning new retail frontiers, the Brentwood resident enjoys riding bikes along the beach or taking in a USC football game with wife Tina and their four children. As for living large as a developer and businessman, he follows a simple philosophy: “Build quality,” he says. “Build things in the right locations. Live by a handshake. And deliver beyond people’s expectations.”