Last month, billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso announced his candidacy to become LA’s next mayor.

Caruso, 63, has never held office, and his substantial business holdings have some people concerned about conflicts of interest.

What You Need To Know

  • Billionaire developer Rick Caruso announced his candidacy for LA mayor last month, joining a competitive race

  • Caruso owns several buildings in LA, including the Grove and the Americana at Brand, as well as millions of dollars in stock holdings

  • Some voters have expressed concern over whether Caruso’s substantial business ventures in the city would lead to a conflict of interest if he became mayor

  • It elected, Corinne Verdery would run Caruso’s business through a blind trust

In an interview for “LA Times Today,” reporter Julia Wick spoke with host Amrit Singh about Caruso’s business empire and what would happen to it if he became mayor.

Rick Caruso is a prominent real estate developer, who owns landmarks like The Grove, The Americana at Brand and the Palisades Village. Most people do not know his name, but they know his buildings. Caruso has some experience in local politics.

“He, unlike most businesspeople who never held elected office and ran, is actually pretty entrenched in LA civic bureaucracy," Wick explained. "He first was elected to the Department of Water and Power Board at age 25 and later served on the LA Police Commission as police commission president, where he was instrumental in bringing William J. Bratton in as chief."

Some people have suggested that a conflict of interest could arise if Caruso, as someone who owns many properties in LA, became its mayor.

Wick explained the role Caruso would take on within his company to avoid such conflicts.  

“Caruso has said that if he wins, he will put all of his holdings into a blind trust and have someone else take the helm of this company," Wick said. "He has named a potential successor, a woman named Corinne Verdery, who is currently the chief development officer at his company. He operates billions of dollars’ worth of commercial properties in Southern California. The real question is whether there is any issue with having his holdings, even if they are in a blind trust, and running for office. We’ve spoken to a lot of government ethics experts who say essentially it is not at all disqualifying as long as Caruso discloses these things and is vigilant about conflicts of interest that might come up."

Recent corruption scandals have put a lot of scrutiny on the relationship between developers and LA City Hall. Wick said there is a lot of voters anxiety about corruption in City Hall.

“It’s really unclear how that will affect Caruso’s chances in this race and whether voters will direct that scrutiny towards him just because he’s the developer," Wick explained. "One person we spoke to for this story was a veteran LA politician, Zev Yaroslavsky. ... His take was really that, yes, voters are upset about this and focused on this, but they are directing it at corrupt politicians, and corrupt developers. They are not directing it towards every politician and every developer. One other interesting thing is that Caruso has really made anti-corruption a big part of his message, which also is about cleaning up the city, public safety and ending corruption at City Hall."

Part of Caruso’s mayoral campaign is making a financial disclosure. He provided a 94-page financial disclosure, giving voters insight into his stock holdings and income.

“It offered a window into his stock and real estate holdings," Wick said. "Among some holdings valued at over one million, each are stocks, including Amazon, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Costco, Microsoft, Nike, Walt Disney. A lot of really big companies."

Wick looked ahead at Caruso’s prospects as the mayoral race continues.

“We have a little less than a hundred days to go until the primary and a lot of things can happen between that," Wick said. "It is hard to say anything definitively. There is a lot that can happen in the next 100 days until the June primary, but Caruso is certainly a viable candidate. His wealth gives him the ability to self-fund as much as he wants. He has already put a vast sum of money into TV advertising and digital advertising. If you open your phone and open social media, YouTube, whatever, you will likely get a Caruso ad. I think that we’ll have a much better sense in the next month or two, as we see polling that’s done as these ads saturate the market, and about whether his message is really getting along with voters."

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