Rick Caruso Blocked From Joining L.A. Country Club After USC Dustup

After the mall developer — who is chairman of the USC board of trustees — backed interim president Wanda Austin's push for dean James Ellis' dismissal, the latter's backers retaliated against Caruso.
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Rick Caruso

Tempers may have cooled since the recent dustup among USC’s board of trustees over the dismissal of the dean of the Marshall School of Business, James Ellis, but that doesn’t mean all is forgiven.

According to sources, a group of business leaders and USC alumni have mounted a behind-the-scenes campaign against real estate mogul Rick Caruso’s bid to join the Los Angeles Country Club, one of the city’s most prestigious and exclusive institutions. "[The LACC] got a lot of angry calls about Rick — so he pulled his application,” said one source with knowledge of the club’s application process.

The move to torpedo Caruso’s application comes after he sided with interim USC president Wanda Austin, who had urged Ellis to step down after a report revealed dozens of misconduct complaints filed during Ellis’ 12-year tenure (Ellis was never personally implicated in any of the accusations. Still, the trustees voted overwhelmingly that he should step down later this year).

That prompted a heated trustee meeting in January and a sharply worded letter by donor Edward Roski, who fell just short of accusing Caruso of racism for his alleged treatment of trustee Ming Hsieh. “The irony is that Rick is supporting the school’s first African-American female president and they’re accusing him of racism. It’s ridiculous,” said a Caruso backer. When asked about the pulling of the LACC application a Caruso spokesman said only: “It’s a private matter.” 

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.