Meet Rick Caruso

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, where Augusto worked as a gardener from the back of his pickup truck and planted the seeds for four thriving  generations of his family in the City of Angels.  At their regular Sunday dinners Rick’s grandmother relentlessly emphasized the importance of hard work, protecting the family name, keeping faith and giving back to your community.

Caruso’s father Henry ran track at Marshall High, served in World War II and attended the University of Southern California on the GI Bill.  He achieved great early success in auto sales but took a massive personal fall early in his career and was indicted and served time for fraud.  Rick drew the ultimate lessons from his father’s refusal to allow his mistakes to define him.  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.

Job 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 some of 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 generously with Los Angeles.  The Carusos 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 poorest neighborhoods, including homeless kids on Skid Row. Rick and Tina also established the Caruso Loan Forgiveness Fund which covers the school loan payments for ten years for low-income and other underserved students.

Saved DWP from Financial Ruin and Demanded Change

Rick served two stints on the Department of Water and Power Commission where he saved the Department from financial ruin 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 in dire financial straits. Caruso saved the Department from financial ruin, 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 generation, 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 cut crime, fought corruption and stood up to political pressure to force real reform.  He came to the presidency at a time of great turmoil for the LAPD with the Department operating under a federal consent decree. Caruso restored public trust in the LAPD, especially among Black, Asian and Latino Angelenos. Rick oversaw a 30 percent reduction in crime and overhauled police disciplinary procedures. He fought for community policing and police accountability and stood up to political pressure when he hired Chief William Bratton, who is remembered as the most transformational figure in the history of policing in the City of Los Angeles.

Ended Corruption at the Coliseum Commission

When the Los Angeles Coliseum was plagued by mismanagement and corruption, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Rick to turn the mess around.  Rick led investigations to uncover corruption and waste and ushered in an historic lease agreement with USC that placed the Coliseum on sound financial footing while kickstarting much needed renovations.  Rick also ended the “raves” at the Coliseum which had tragically resulted in drug overdoses and public safety problems.

Cleaned up the Messes at USC

When Rick’s alma mater faced multiple scandals, Rick stepped in as Chair of the USC Board of Trustees to fight for needed changes to the University’s culture, leadership and Board. Rick empowered independent investigations to clean up admissions and ensure accountability for those culpable in cases of sexual abuse, all while working tirelessly to restore community and student trust. 

Led 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.