A renowned business innovator, dedicated civic leader and actively-involved philanthropist, Rick J. Caruso is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Caruso®, one of the largest and most admired privately held real estate companies in the United States.
Under Caruso’s leadership, the company has achieved a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 20% since its inception. Its world-class portfolio of properties continues to expand and include more than a dozen internationally renowned and award-winning retail, residential, mixed-use and soon, a resort hotel destination. As cited by Green Street Advisors, Caruso properties consistently outperform traditional shopping destinations based on productivity and sales per square foot, with results three times higher than the industry average. Its flagship property, The Grove was ranked #2 on Fortune’s list of the 10 highest sales-generating shopping centers in the country. Additionally, Caruso is the only development company to have two of its properties ranked on Shopping Center Today’s list of the top 15 shopping centers in the world, based on sales per square foot.
Caruso started his career as a real-estate lawyer in the corporate finance department of one of the nation’s largest law firms. Thereafter, he transitioned from law to pursue his lifelong passion for development, establishing Caruso Affiliated Holdings in 1987. Ignoring the traditional “shopping mall” approach to retail, he adopted a fresh, new strategy for development and revolutionized the industry with imaginative retail and mixed-use destinations that serve as timeless and beloved centers of town.
At the heart of Caruso’s award-winning development approach is a deep respect and understanding of civic responsibility and a fierce loyalty to surrounding communities—the result of decades of hands-on experience in public service. Early in his career, he served as the youngest Commissioner in the city’s history when Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him Commissioner for the L.A. Department of Water and Power. In that role, he brought a 25-year-old lawsuit to resolution that provided more clean water to Los Angeles while protecting the environment. Following this success, Caruso was selected as President of the L.A. Police Commission where he led the effort to overhaul the Los Angeles Police Department and recruited William Bratton as Chief of Police. Together, they reduced the city’s crime rate to the lowest levels in 50 years.
Caruso’s deeply held personal philosophy and commitment to giving back have further solidified his reputation as a compassionate member of the community. In 1991, he and his wife Tina, founded the Caruso Family Foundation, dedicated to supporting organizations that improve the lives of at-risk children in need of healthcare and education. Among the many nonprofit organizations that he supports, Caruso is actively involved with Operation Progress, Para Los Niños, St. Lawrence of Brindisi School and Verbum Dei High School, all focused on the historically underserved area of Watts, Los Angeles.
Caruso, a long-serving member of the USC community, also endowed the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology at the Keck School of Medicine and the USC Catholic Center, which provides spiritual connection for faculty and students of all faiths. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and a Juris Doctorate as a Margaret Martin Block Scholar from Pepperdine School of Law.
Caruso, who was named a “retail mastermind” by The Wall Street Journal, has received numerous awards and distinctions for both his professional and philanthropic work, including "Developer of the Year" and “2016 L.A. Icon” by the Los Angeles Business Journal. Additionally, he was honored with the "True Blue" award from the Los Angeles Police Foundation, recognizing him as a leader dedicated to positive change through philanthropic, business and civic leadership. He was also honored by Pope Francis with the rank of Commander in the Order of St. Gregory the Great for his service and generosity to so many in need. In 2017, Caruso was presented the Asa V. Call Award, the most distinguished alumni honor at USC. Recently, he was named by Town and Country magazine as one of the top 50 philanthropists in the nation.
Caruso was elected, unanimously, as Chair of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of the University of Southern California. He also serves as the Chair of the Board of Loyola High School, and is on the Board of Advisors of Pepperdine School of Law, and on the Boards for The Irvine Company, St. John’s Hospital, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation.