To say that Bruce Karatz has lived a rich and full life would be an understatement.
Both modest and extroverted but always iconic, the former CEO of KB Home has been a board member of Avery Dennison Corp., The RAND Corp., The Kroger Co., and other Fortune 500 companies. Forbes Magazine, Business Week and other media have publicized his net worth, corporate achievements and professional credentials.
A celebrity in his own right, Mr. Karatz has circulated among celebrities and influential figures in business, politics and entertainment. But the accomplishment Mr. Karatz prizes most is that of philanthropist, particularly during times of acute turmoil that are now well documented in modern history. Of particular note are:
Los Angeles 1992 Riots and Aftermath
In 1992, racial riots rocked Los Angeles, leaving the burning streets in rubble and ashes. Taking a strong stance KB Home, where Mr. Karatz was CEO, led the rebuilding of Camp Hollywoodland, a retreat for inner-city children that had been gutted by fire. Mr. Karatz and his company assisted in other restoration efforts for the city. But Mr. Karatz's charitable activism on behalf of the city's well-being continued in the 1990s; he and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan co-chaired the Mayor’s Alliance for a Safer LA, which raised funds for computer installations in LA police precincts.
Hurricane Katrina 2005 and the Reconstruction of New Orleans
The year 2005 brought Hurricane Katrina, when damaging winds and torrential flood waters devastated the Crescent City, nearly wiping out vulnerable neighborhoods such as the Lower Ninth Ward. In the aftermath of the storm, Mr. Karatz persuaded a skeptical board of directors that KB Home should be the first national homebuilder to lead the rebuilding and recovery of New Orleans. The board relented. KB Home then acquired 74 finished lots in downtown New Orleans and bought 3,000 acres in Jefferson Parish. Observing the fragility of the Crescent City's business community, Mr. Karatz personally believed that other home builders would be motivated to help if KB Home took the initiative.
Home building assistance eventually came from many sources but KB Home was a driving force behind this charitable feat.
Other Star Turns in Philanthropy
In a philanthropic tour de force, Mr. Karatz and KB Home did a star turn on an episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition. The show featured a single mother with lung cancer and her seven children, three of them critically ill. Mr. Karatz had the construction crew raze the family's cinderblock house and replace it with a fully constructed 3,200-square-foot dwelling. The building project was completed in two days. In the show's finale, Mr. Karatz tore up the family’s mortgage and promised to pay off their entire loan. It was one of those episodes few viewers will forget.
During the mortgage crisis that emerged in 2007, Mr. Karatz founded the Keep Your Home Foundation to support people in California facing foreclosures.
Bruce Karatz's generosity and compassion are very well known to the local and global business community. During his tenure at KB Home, and even after leaving the company, he has been supporting a number of non-profit organizations. His work includes serving as board member of Homeboy Industries and Phoenix House. Homeboy Industries provides formerly incarcerated gang members with skills for re-entry into society and Phoenix House is a leading non-profit for treatment of substance abuse.
A Timeline of Corporate Achievement
In 1972, Mr. Karatz became associate general counsel worker for Kaufman & Broad, later renamed
KB Home. He held several positions at the company, distinguishing himself when he installed a full-sized model home on the roof of a French department store in 1977. Through his efforts, KB Home became one of the largest home builders in France.
Mr. Karatz returned to KB Home's Los Angeles headquarters in 1981. In 1986, he was named CEO, serving in this capacity until 2006.
When the Southern California real estate market collapsed in the early 1990s, Mr. Karatz expanded
KB Home through the acquisition of regional home builders.
Bruce Karatz is credited with making customized home-buying accessible to middle-class consumers when his company changed its business approach from home construction on speculation to home building on order. In 2006, Fortune Magazine ranked KB Home as the top (#1) home builder and one of the most admired companies. KB Home was now a Fortune 500 company.
Life after KB Home
Although he retired from KB Home, Bruce Karatz remains active in the corporate world. He now operates BK Capital LLC, based in Beverly Hills.
Also, he sees no end to his philanthropic activities.