California shopping center king Rick Caruso is back — and cheering on the demise of the American mall

By Noah Kirsch | Forbes Staff

In mid-March, real estate billionaire Rick Caruso and his team conducted war games to see how the coronavirus might impact his collection of ultra-luxury shopping centers in southern California.

“The worst-case scenario was it going through the year into the first quarter of next year,” says Caruso, 61, in a phone interview from his estate in Brentwood. At the time, that doomsday scenario seemed a remote possibility. Then the virus got worse. And worse still.  Before the end of the month, Caruso’s more than two dozen properties, including The Americana in Glendale, Palisades Village and The Commons at Calabasas, stood quiet. His most valuable holding, The Grove, in Central L.A., was also eerily still: The iconic outdoor mall typically bustles with some 20 million visitors per year, more than the Great Wall of China, generating an average of $2,460 in sales per square foot, the second-highest in the country.

“Our company over the last 29 years has grown at a 19% compounded annual growth rate,” says Caruso. Suddenly, “our revenue went from roughly 100% to 25%.”

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