Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has turned to the former head of an equity firm to spearhead the mayor's renewed job creation effort and push to make the city a more attractive, less bureaucratic locale for business.
Austin Beutner, founder of the boutique private equity firm Evercore Partners and former partner at the Blackstone Group, will serve as Villaraigosa's deputy mayor of economic development and oversee the Port of Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power, two major economic catalysts for Los Angeles.
He will also oversee economic development initiatives at Los Angeles World Airports.
The nationwide economic downturn has hit Los Angeles especially hard, with the city's unemployment at 13.4% -- topping both the national and state averages -- and more than 20,000 L.A. families having lost their homes to foreclosure.
The city also faces a budget shortfall of more than $400 million in the next fiscal year in part because of dwindling property and business-related tax revenue.
"I said in my second inaugural that job creation would be the No. 1 priority for me," Villaraigosa said Sunday evening. "Austin has a unique combination of private-sector and public-sector experience and a vision for the economic development for Los Angeles, along with the wherewithal to get the job done."
Beutner, 49, retired from Evercore after suffering serious injuries in a bicycling accident.
Before Evercore, Beutner also led the U.S. Russia Investment Fund, a private investment firm supported by the U.S. government.
Beutner said he was looking for a new challenge and to have a positive effect on the city during tough economic times.
Beutner will forgo a salary and agreed to work for $1 a year.
"There's a need. If all were going well, [the job] probably would have been a less appealing opportunity," he said.
He replaces Robert "Bud" Ovrom, who had asked to be reassigned and has been appointed by the mayor to be general manager of the Department of Building and Safety. Beutner lives on the Westside with his wife and their four young children.
Times staff writer Maeve Reston contributed to this report.