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Richard Riordan

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Title: Richard Riordan  
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Subject: Los Angeles mayoral election, 1997, Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley (American politician), California gubernatorial election, 2002, List of Los Angeles municipal election returns
Collection: 1930 Births, American People of Irish Descent, American Venture Capitalists, Businesspeople from New York City, California Republicans, Living People, Mayors of Los Angeles, California, People from Flushing, Queens, People from New Rochelle, New York, Princeton University Alumni, Santa Clara University Alumni, State Cabinet Secretaries of California, University of Michigan Law School Alumni, Venture Capitalists
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Richard Riordan

Richard Riordan
Riordan in 1993
39th Mayor of Los Angeles
In office
July 1, 1993 – July 1, 2001
Preceded by Tom Bradley
Succeeded by James Hahn
Personal details
Born Richard Joseph Riordan
(1930-05-01) May 1, 1930
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Eugenia Warady (divorced)
Jill Noel (divorced)
Nancy Daly (divorced, deceased)
Children five (two deceased)
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater Princeton University
Santa Clara University
University of Michigan Law School
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1952–1955
Rank First Lieutenant
Battles/wars Korean War

Richard Joseph "Dick" Riordan (born May 1, 1930) is an American investment banker, businessman, investor, and politician who served as the 39th Mayor of Los Angeles, California serving from 1993 to 2001. He is a member of the Republican Party. To date, Riordan remains the last Republican to serve as Mayor of Los Angeles.


  • Pre-political life 1
    • Business career 1.1
  • The Riordan Foundation 2
  • Mayor 3
  • 2002 gubernatorial race 4
  • California Secretary for Education 5
  • The Los Angeles Examiner 6
  • Current involvement in city politics 7
  • References 8
  • Sources 9
  • External links 10

Pre-political life

Riordan, an Irish-American, was born in Flushing, New York and raised in New Rochelle in Westchester County, New York.[1] He moved to Los Angeles to begin work as an attorney for the downtown law firm of O'Melveny & Myers in 1956, leaving in 1959 to become a partner of Nossaman LLP.

Business career

Riordan's investment activities in the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s focused primarily on venture capital opportunities in the computer, medical and semiconductor sectors. In 1982, he co-founded, together with J. Christopher Lewis, a private equity firm which is now called Riordan, Lewis & Haden.

In 1983, Riordan also co-founded Riordan, Freeman & Spogli, a private equity firm, along with Bradford Freeman and Ronald P. Spogli. The firm was an early sponsor of leveraged buyout transactions, with an initial focus on the supermarket sector. Grocery chain acquisitions led by Riordan, Freeman & Spogli included Bayless Southwest (Phoenix), Boys Markets (Los Angeles), P&C Foods (Syracuse), Piggly Wiggly (various Southern states) and Tops Markets (New York and Pennsylvania). In the late 1980s, Riordan ceased to be a member of Riordan, Freeman & Spogli (then renamed Freeman Spogli & Co.), and Freeman Spogli & Co. continued to pursue leveraged buyouts of businesses across a range of industry sectors.

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 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 a number of schools and provided books purchased for elementary classroom libraries.[2]


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 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, who was under sharp criticism for his tactics. Overshadowing all of these was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which followed the state-level acquittal of the four LAPD officers charged with the videotaped beating of 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 Los Angeleno.

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.[3]

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.[4]

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. 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 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.

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%, he eventually lost to Simon by 18%.

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.[5]

California Secretary for Education

When Davis faced 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 for Education. Riordan left the position on June 30, 2005.

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.[6][7] It was never published. Riordan put the project on hold when he was appointed as secretary for education.[8]

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 the election in 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.

In 2013, Riordan endorsed mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel. Greuel was ultimately defeated by then-Councilmember Eric Garcetti.[9]


  1. ^ Hizzoner the CEO L.A.'s New Mayor Is a Manager in The Perot Mold, TIME 1993
  2. ^ Description taken from the official Riordan Foundation website
  3. ^
  4. ^ MTA consent decree drives different reactions in L.A.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Rutten Review
  7. ^ reportChristian Science Monitor
  8. ^ state
  9. ^


  • "Still at sea: PLC Global Counsel law firm reivew 2003" [1], 18 November 2003.
  • Taub, Daniel. "Riordan made his fortune backing start-up ventures," Los Angeles Business Journal, June 30, 1997
  • Wood, Daniel B. "Riordan: 'Goofy' or a Mr. Fixit?," Christian Science Monitor, August 5, 2003
  • Zwiebach, Elloitt "The LBO maker (leveraged buyouts, Riordan Freeman & Spogli merchant bank)", Supermarket News, July 1987
  • Ard, Scott "I know you are, but what am I?," CNET News, July 9, 2004
  • Murphy, Jarrett "Furor Over 'Stupid Dirty Girl'," CBS News, July 9, 2004

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