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Richard J. Riordan


In office
1993–2001
Preceded by Tom Bradley
Succeeded by James K. Hahn

Born May 1, 1930 (1930-05-01) (age 79)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Nancy Daly Riordan "divorced"
Children three
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater Princeton University
University of Michigan Law School
Religion Roman Catholic

Richard J. Riordan (born May 1, 1930) is a Republican politician from California, U.S.A. who served as the California Secretary of Education from 2003–2005 and as Mayor of Los Angeles, California from 1993–2001. Riordan ran for Governor of California unsuccessfully in 2002.

Contents

Pre-political life

Riordan, an Irish-American, was born in Flushing, New York and attended Princeton University, earning a degree in philosophy. He then served in the Korean War, and earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1956. Shortly thereafter he received an inheritance from his father. He invested the money in four firms — Control Data Corporation, Litton Industries, Haloid (predecessor of Xerox), and Syntex — and within a few years had converted an $80,000 investment into almost $500,000.

He moved to Los Angeles to begin work as an attorney for the downtown law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, but spent the next several years at a number of law firms including Nossaman LLP all the while honing his skills as a venture capitalist. Among his successes were the first company to produce low-cost cassette tapes, as well as a $650,000 investment in Convergent Technologies which increased to $19.9 million when it was acquired by Unisys in 1985.[citation needed]

In 1975, he co-founded Riordan & McKinzie, a boutique law firm in Los Angeles. The firm later merged with Bingham McCutchen in July 2003.

Career in private equity

In 1983, Riordan co-founded Riordan, Freeman & Spogli, a private equity firm, along with Bradford Freeman and Ronald Spogli. He focused primarily on venture capital investments computer, medical and semiconductor companies. The firm made its name in the 1980s through a series of leveraged buyout transactions, most notable of which was the 1984 buyout of Mattel.

Throughout the 1980s, Riordan, Freeman & Spogli also executed leveraged buyouts of a series of supermarket retailers including Bayless Southwest (Phoenix), Boys Markets (Los Angeles), P&C Foods (Syracuse), Piggly Wiggly (various Southern states) and Tops Markets (New York and Pennsylvania).

In 1988 he formed a venture capital firm called Riordan, Lewis & Haden with J. Christopher Lewis and former Los Angeles Rams and USC quarterback Pat Haden. Riordan had separated from the other two partners of Riordan, Freeman & Spogli (subsequently renamed Freeman Spogli & Co.) in 1988, when they decided to specialize primarily in larger leveraged buyouts of more mature companies. Riordan relinquished his general partner position in the firm to form Riordan, Lewis & Haden. Riordan, Lewis & Haden remains a small private equity firm focusing on growth capital investments in middle-market companies.

The Riordan Foundation

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 across the country 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 over 2,110 schools in 40 states and provided funds for over 145,000 books purchased for elementary classroom libraries.[1]

Mayor

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 become a major world city, but had also 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 under sharp criticism for his tactics. Overshadowing and overarching all were the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which followed the acquittal of four LAPD officers accused of beating 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 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 same 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.[citation needed]

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. He further invested his own personal money into California's school system, spending nearly $50 million for new classroom furnishings, including computers.[citation needed] As mayor Riordan collected a salary of $1 per year. 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 K. 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

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 percentage points, he eventually lost to Simon by 18 percent.

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. [3]

California Secretary of Education

When Davis was removed by the 2003 California 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 of Education. Riordan left the position on June 30, 2005.

Not known for his eloquence, Riordan became the center of a media circus, due to a remark made July 1, 2004 to a 6-year-old girl, Isis D'Luciano, in Santa Barbara. During a children's library event, she asked Riordan if he knew what her name, Isis, meant. Riordan responded, "it means stupid, dirty girl", laughed with several others in the crowd, and then asked her what it really meant. She then replied, "It means 'Egyptian goddess'," to which Riordan stated, "That's nifty." He later explained it as a failed attempt at humor. Although Governor Schwarzenegger continued to support him, Riordan's resignation was demanded by State Assemblyman Mervyn M. Dymally, citizens' rights groups, and civil rights groups, including the NAACP, and LULAC. It should be noted that the NAACP withdrew from the fray after learning that the girl was white.[citation needed]

The Los Angeles Examiner

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.[4][5] It was never published. Riordan put the project on hold when he was appointed as state secretary of education.

Current involvement in city politics

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 election and currently represents 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.

Legacy

The downtown branch of the LA City library is named after him.

Restaurants

Richard Riordan is also a restaurant owner. Prior to becoming Mayor, he purchased the Original Pantry Cafe in Downtown Los Angeles. He also owns Riordan's Tavern, a wood paneled restaurant and bar next door to The Pantry. In Pacific Palisades, California he owns Gladstones 4 Fish and acquired long-time traditional hangout Mort's Deli, angering some locals when he re-opened it as The Village Pantry.

References

Sources

Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Bradley
Mayor of Los Angeles, California
1993—2001
Succeeded by
James K. Hahn

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