Richard Riordan
Richard J. Riordan is a Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 from California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, U.S.A.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 who served as the California Secretary for Education from 2003–2005 and as the 39th Mayor of Los Angeles, California
Mayor of Los Angeles, California
The mayor of Los Angeles is the chief executive officer of the city. He is elected for a four-year term and limited to serving no more than two terms. Under the California Constitution, all judicial, school, county, and city offices, including those of chartered cities, are nonpartisan...

 from 1993–2001. Riordan ran for Governor of California
Governor of California
The Governor of California is the chief executive of the California state government, whose responsibilities include making annual State of the State addresses to the California State Legislature, submitting the budget, and ensuring that state laws are enforced...

 unsuccessfully in 2002.

Pre-political life

Riordan, an Irish-American, was born in Flushing, New York and attended Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, earning a degree in philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

. He played on the rugby team
Princeton Rugby
The Princeton University Rugby Football Club comprises the rugby union club of Princeton University. The school competes in the Ivy League in Division I of USA Rugby's intercollegiate competition.-Men's team:...

 while attending college. He then served in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, and earned his Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 degree from the University of Michigan Law School
University of Michigan Law School
The University of Michigan Law School is the law school of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Founded in 1859, the school has an enrollment of about 1,200 students, most of whom are seeking Juris Doctor or Master of Laws degrees, although the school also offers a Doctor of Juridical...

 in 1956. Shortly thereafter he received an inheritance from his father. He invested the money in four firms — Control Data Corporation
Control Data Corporation
Control Data Corporation was a supercomputer firm. For most of the 1960s, it built the fastest computers in the world by far, only losing that crown in the 1970s after Seymour Cray left the company to found Cray Research, Inc....

, Litton Industries
Litton Industries
Named after inventor Charles Litton, Sr., Litton Industries was a large defense contractor in the United States, bought by the Northrop Grumman Corporation in 2001.-History:...

, Haloid (predecessor of Xerox
Xerox Corporation is an American multinational document management corporation that produced and sells a range of color and black-and-white printers, multifunction systems, photo copiers, digital production printing presses, and related consulting services and supplies...

), and Syntex — and within a few years had profited from his investment of $80,000 (the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $612,000 in 2010 dollars).

He moved to Los Angeles to begin work as an attorney for the downtown
Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles is the central business district of Los Angeles, California, United States, located close to the geographic center of the metropolitan area...

 law firm
Law firm
A law firm is a business entity formed by one or more lawyers to engage in the practice of law. The primary service rendered by a law firm is to advise clients about their legal rights and responsibilities, and to represent clients in civil or criminal cases, business transactions, and other...

 of O’Melveny & Myers in 1956, leaving in 1959 to become a partner of Nossaman
Nossaman LLP is a national law firm with over 150 attorneys and lobbyists located in seven offices throughout the United States. The Firm’s expertise is focused in distinct areas of law and policy, as well as in specific industries, ranging from transportation, healthcare and financial services to...

 LLP. Among his successes were the first company to produce low-cost cassette tapes.

In 1975, he and Carl McKinzie co-founded Riordan & McKinzie, a small law firm in Los Angeles. The firm later merged with Bingham McCutchen
Bingham McCutchen
Bingham McCutchen LLP is a global law firm with approximately 1,100 attorneys in nine US offices and four international offices. It represents clients in corporate litigation, cross-border restructurings and insolvencies, financing and securities, structured finance and capital markets, government...

 in July 2003.


Riordan’s investment activities in the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s focused primarily on venture capital
Venture capital
Venture capital is financial capital provided to early-stage, high-potential, high risk, growth startup companies. The venture capital fund makes money by owning equity in the companies it invests in, which usually have a novel technology or business model in high technology industries, such as...

 opportunities in the computer, medical and semiconductor sectors. In 1982, he co-founded, together with J. Christopher Lewis, a private equity
Private equity
Private equity, in finance, is an asset class consisting of equity securities in operating companies that are not publicly traded on a stock exchange....

 firm which is now called Riordan, Lewis & Haden
Riordan, Lewis & Haden
Riordan, Lewis & Haden is a private equity firm based in Los Angeles that focuses on making investments in growing, profitable businesses with $20–200 million in revenue. The firm, which was founded in 1982, currently manages over $400 million in committed capital...

. Since the mid-1980s, Riordan, Lewis & Haden has focused on investing in various companies such as Tetra Tech, Adohr Farms, Data Processing Resources, Silverado Senior Living, ITS, maxIT Healthcare, and Secure Mission Solutions.

In 1983, Riordan also co-founded Riordan, Freeman & Spogli, a private equity firm, along with Bradford Freeman and Ronald P. Spogli
Ronald P. Spogli
Ronald P. Spogli is the former United States Ambassador to Italy and to San Marino. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 30, 2005, after being nominated by President George W. Bush on June 9. He was preceded by Mel Sembler as Ambassador to Italy and is the first American ambassador to San...

. The firm was an early sponsor of leveraged buyout
Leveraged buyout
A leveraged buyout occurs when an investor, typically financial sponsor, acquires a controlling interest in a company's equity and where a significant percentage of the purchase price is financed through leverage...

 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
Piggly Wiggly
Piggly Wiggly is a supermarket chain operating in the Midwestern and Southern regions of the United States, run by Piggly Wiggly, LLC, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers. The current company headquarters is in Keene, New Hampshire....

 (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.


When Los Angeles Mayor
Mayor of Los Angeles, California
The mayor of Los Angeles is the chief executive officer of the city. He is elected for a four-year term and limited to serving no more than two terms. Under the California Constitution, all judicial, school, county, and city offices, including those of chartered cities, are nonpartisan...

 Tom Bradley
Tom Bradley (politician)
Thomas J. "Tom" Bradley was the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles, California, serving in that office from 1973 to 1993. He was the first and to date only African American mayor of Los Angeles...

 announced his retirement, Riordan's interest turned to the 1993 mayoral election
Los Angeles mayoral election, 1993
The Los Angeles mayoral election of 1993 took place on June 8, 1993.This was the first race in 64 years that an incumbent was not on the ballot...

. 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
A gang is a group of people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage, share a common identity. In current usage it typically denotes a criminal organization or else a criminal affiliation. In early usage, the word gang referred to a group of workmen...

 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
Los Angeles Police Department
The Los Angeles Police Department is the police department of the city of Los Angeles, California. With just under 10,000 officers and more than 3,000 civilian staff, covering an area of with a population of more than 4.1 million people, it is the third largest local law enforcement agency in...

 under Chief Daryl Gates
Daryl Gates
Daryl Gates was the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1978 to 1992.-Early life:...

 under sharp criticism for his tactics. Overshadowing and overarching all were the 1992 Los Angeles riots
1992 Los Angeles riots
The 1992 Los Angeles Riots or South Central Riots, also known as the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest were sparked on April 29, 1992, when a jury acquitted three white and one hispanic Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King following a...

, which followed the acquittal of four LAPD officers accused of beating African-American motorist Rodney King
Rodney King
Rodney Glen King is an American best known for his involvement in a police brutality case involving the Los Angeles Police Department on March 3, 1991...


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
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 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
Los Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles International Airport is the primary airport serving the Greater Los Angeles Area, the second-most populated metropolitan area in the United States. It is most often referred to by its IATA airport code LAX, with the letters pronounced individually...

. 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.

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
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

 police commissioner
Police commissioner
Commissioner is a senior rank used in many police forces and may be rendered Police Commissioner or Commissioner of Police. In some organizations, the commissioner is a political appointee, and may or may not actually be a professional police officer. In these circumstances, there is often a...

 Willie Williams
Willie L. Williams
Willie L. Williams was chief of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1992 to 1997, taking over after chief Daryl Gates' resignation following the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Williams was the first African-American police commissioner of both the Philadelphia Police Department and the LAPD...

, but oversaw a general decline in crime. (In 1997, Riordan replaced Williams with LAPD veteran Bernard Parks.) That same year, he was reelected
Los Angeles mayoral election, 1997
The city of Los Angeles held a mayoral election on April 8, 1997. Incumbent Richard J. Riordan won the election.-External links:***...

 in a landslide against California State Senator Tom Hayden
Tom Hayden
Thomas Emmet "Tom" Hayden is an American social and political activist and politician, known for his involvement in the animal rights, and the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s. He is the former husband of actress Jane Fonda and the father of actor Troy Garity.-Life and...


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
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is the California state-chartered regional transportation planning agency and public transportation operating agency for the County of Los Angeles formed in 1993 out of a merger of the Southern California Rapid Transit District and the...

's Red Line subway
Rapid transit
A rapid transit, underground, subway, elevated railway, metro or metropolitan railway system is an electric passenger railway in an urban area with a high capacity and frequency, and grade separation from other traffic. Rapid transit systems are typically located either in underground tunnels or on...

, 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
Consent decree
A consent decree is a final, binding judicial decree or judgment memorializing a voluntary agreement between parties to a suit in return for withdrawal of a criminal charge or an end to a civil litigation...

 in 1996 that eviscerated MTA funding for the construction of subway and light rail
Light rail
Light rail or light rail transit is a form of urban rail public transportation that generally has a lower capacity and lower speed than heavy rail and metro systems, but higher capacity and higher speed than traditional street-running tram systems...

 projects. Riordan has publicly regretted having signed the consent decree and counts it as the biggest mistake of his mayoral tenure.

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
Los Angeles Unified School District
Los Angeles Unified School District is the largest public school system in California. It is the 2nd largest public school district in the United States. Only the New York City Department of Education has a larger student population...

; 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
James Hahn
James Kenneth "Jim" Hahn is an American politician. Hahn was elected the 40th Mayor of Los Angeles in 2001. He served until 2005, at which time he was defeated in his bid for re-election...

 after being term-limited out of office; in fact, it was Riordan who spearheaded the city's term limit
Term limit
A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms a person may serve in a particular elected office. When term limits are found in presidential and semi-presidential systems they act as a method to curb the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes "president for...

 ballot initiative, prior to becoming mayor. In the mayoral primary election
Los Angeles mayoral election, 2001
In 2001, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan was prevented from running for a third term because of term limits. In the election to replace him, Riordan endorsed his Senior Advisor and Parks Commissioner, the Republican businessman Steve Soboroff.-Primary Election:...

 that year, Riordan had endorsed his advisor and friend Steve Soboroff
Steve Soboroff
Steve Soboroff is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Weingart Foundation and past Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Playa Vista...

. Soboroff came in third in the nonpartisan race, and Hahn and former California State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa
Antonio Villaraigosa
Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa , born Antonio Ramón Villar, Jr., is the 41st and current Mayor of Los Angeles, California, the third Mexican American to have ever held office in the city of Los Angeles and the first in over 130 years. He is also the current president of the United States Conference of...

 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
California gubernatorial election, 2002
The 2002 California gubernatorial election was an election that occurred on November 5, 2002. Democrat Gray Davis defeated Republican Bill Simon by 5% and was re-elected to a second four-year term as Governor of California. Davis would be recalled less than a year into his next term.The 2002...

, Riordan, a moderate
In politics and religion, a moderate is an individual who is not extreme, partisan or radical. In recent years, political moderates has gained traction as a buzzword....

 Republican, decided to seek the governorship
Governor of California
The Governor of California is the chief executive of the California state government, whose responsibilities include making annual State of the State addresses to the California State Legislature, submitting the budget, and ensuring that state laws are enforced...

. He was opposed in the Republican primary election
Primary election
A primary election is an election in which party members or voters select candidates for a subsequent election. Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the next general election....

 by conservative
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 businessman Bill Simon and former California Secretary of State
California Secretary of State
The Secretary of State of California is the chief elections officer of that U.S. state. The Secretary of State is also responsible for the California State Archives, as well as chartering corporations. The Secretary of State is elected to four year terms, concurrent with the other constitutional...

 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
Gray Davis
Joseph Graham "Gray" Davis, Jr. is an American Democratic politician who served as California's 37th Governor from 1999 until being recalled in 2003...

' 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.

California Secretary for 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
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011....

 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.

Not known for his eloquence, Riordan became the center of a media circus
Media circus
Media circus is a colloquial metaphor, or idiom, describing a news event where the media coverage is perceived to be out of proportion to the event being covered, such as the number of reporters at the scene, the amount of news media published or broadcast, and the level of media hype...

, due to a remark made July 1, 2004 to a 6-year-old girl, Isis D'Luciano, in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara is the county seat of Santa Barbara County, California, United States. Situated on an east-west trending section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply-rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean...

. During a children's library event, she asked Riordan if he knew what her name, Isis
Isis or in original more likely Aset is a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic...

, meant. Riordan responded, "it means stupid, dirty girl", laughed with several others in the crowd, and then continued, "No. What does it really mean?" She replied, "It means 'Egyptian goddess'," to which Riordan stated, "That's nifty." He later explained it as a failed attempt at humor. Riordan's resignation was demanded by State Assemblyman
California State Assembly
The California State Assembly is the lower house of the California State Legislature. There are 80 members in the Assembly, representing an approximately equal number of constituents, with each district having a population of at least 420,000...

 Mervyn M. Dymally
Mervyn M. Dymally
Mervyn Malcolm Dymally is a California Democratic politician of mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian heritage. He served in the California State Assembly and the California State Senate , as the 41st Lieutenant Governor of California , and in the U.S. House of Representatives...

, citizens' rights groups, and civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 groups, including the NAACP
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually abbreviated as NAACP, is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909. Its mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to...

, and LULAC
League of United Latin American Citizens
The League of United Latin American Citizens was created to combat the discrimination that Hispanics face in the United States. Established February 17, 1929 in Corpus Christi, Texas, LULAC was a consolidation of smaller, like-minded civil rights groups already in existence...

. It should be noted that the NAACP withdrew from the fray after learning that the girl was white.

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. It was never published. Riordan put the project on hold when he was appointed as
state secretary for 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
Antonio Villaraigosa
Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa , born Antonio Ramón Villar, Jr., is the 41st and current Mayor of Los Angeles, California, the third Mexican American to have ever held office in the city of Los Angeles and the first in over 130 years. He is also the current president of the United States Conference of...

 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
James Hahn
James Kenneth "Jim" Hahn is an American politician. Hahn was elected the 40th Mayor of Los Angeles in 2001. He served until 2005, at which time he was defeated in his bid for re-election...


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.


Richard Riordan is also a restaurant owner. Prior to becoming Mayor, he purchased the Original Pantry Cafe
Original Pantry Cafe
The Original Pantry Cafe is an iconic coffee shop and restaurant in Los Angeles, California. Located at the corner of 9th and Figueroa in Downtown L.A.'s South Park district, The Pantry claims to never have closed or been without a customer since it opened in 1924, including when it changed...

 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.


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