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Riordan, Woo Remain Fuzzy on Jobs Issue

May 25, 1993|TED ROHRLICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new brochure from Los Angeles mayoral candidate Richard Riordan inflates his record as a businessman who has created "over 75,000 jobs" because it credits him with the performance of companies in which he held as little as 1% interest.

The four-color glossy brochure, which arrived at many voters' residences over the weekend, also credits him for jobs that were created before he invested.

In a spot check of eight companies listed among the 71 in the brochure, The Times found that Riordan took credit for creating thousands of jobs in firms such as Texas-based Hall-Mark Electronics Inc. and Montana-based Buttrey Food and Drug Stores in which he had as little as a 1% investment and in whose management he has previously said he was not involved.

Riordan's campaign director, William Wardlaw, justified such claims as in-kind answers to Riordan's opponent, City Councilman Michael Woo, who has continued to charge that Riordan cost jobs in companies in which he had the same small stake.

"Mr. Woo has created a new methodology in this campaign which is that if you invest, you're responsible, good or bad," Wardlaw said.

Asked if he agreed with that logic, Wardlaw did not answer, but responded: "What's the next question?"

Woo, meanwhile, made his own exaggerated claims about Riordan's job creation record. His first mailer, a glossy, four-color hit piece that circulated over the weekend, said Riordan was "tough enough to throw 10,000 people out of work."

Woo blamed Riordan for thousands of jobs that were lost in a company--Jones Truck Lines--three years after Riordan sold his interest in it.

Riordan's campaign has previously criticized Woo for using such "inappropriate" reasoning.

But Riordan uses the same logic in his brochure. For example, he took credit for creating thousands of jobs in companies such as Los Angeles' Boys Markets and the New York-based P & C Foods supermarket chain, although the jobs existed before he invested.

Riordan campaign officials Monday declined to discuss investments in the companies The Times was seeking to check. Campaign director Wardlaw took down a list of questions from a reporter and said he would pass them to a spokesman. But the spokesman, Joe Scott, said Monday evening: "We don't have any further comment on the brochure."

Woo's spokesman, Garry South, defended his campaign's use of the Jones Truck Lines example by pointing out that Riordan and some partners had acquired controlling interest in Jones' parent company through a leveraged buyout.

"Part of the problem with LBOs in the 1980s was that companies were loaded down so heavily with debt that they couldn't function. To say that just before the train wreck occurred, he slipped out the caboose does not relieve him of responsibility for what happened to those companies."

South also defended Woo's citing of job losses at a company in which Riordan only had a 1% share in an investment group that took it over.

"It has never been definitely proved how much of a role Riordan played in these takeovers," South said. "It's easy after the fact to say that he was a passive investor."

Riordan's record at Mattel Inc. continues to be a battleground for both campaigns, with Woo charging that Riordan cost 1,300 jobs and Riordan charging that he created 12,500.

Neither side is correct, according to data provided by the company. Several hundred of the lost jobs that Woo blames on Riordan were the result of decisions made by Mattel's board of directors when Riordan was not on the board, company officials say.

For his part, Riordan takes credit for jobs that were in existence at the time he joined the board.

Riordan also claimed to have created 1,800 jobs at 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

Dennis Petroskey, vice president of corporate communications for the company's parent, Fox Inc., was asked about the claim.

"I talked with some people here and what we are going to say is we will leave it to the Riordan campaign to explain how they determine those numbers," he said. "But we appreciate his public support of the Fox redevelopment project, which is expected to create 2,000 jobs."

Told of Petroskey's statement, Wardlaw of the Riordan campaign said the brochure did not refer to the development project, but rather to an investment Riordan made in Fox. However, again, the campaign would provide no details.

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