Major enhancements of all aspects of Phoenix Houses of California programs and services have started with the change of leadership. Having entrusted its management and operations to a seasoned executive, Pouria Abbassi, P.E., who previously led the L.A.Convention Center in a successful turnaround, the organization recently welcomed four new members to its Board of Directors: Denise Willet Friedman, Bruce Karatz, Michael Kraus and Chris Weitz.
Denise Willett Friedman, President of DWF & Associates, represents the San Diego region on the California Board. A native of San Diego, Denise returned home in May, 2012, where she is building a new home, and meeting with numerous organizations where she can merge her interests in the military (her father was a career Navy pilot) and her experience in healthcare. She attended St. Mary’s College and received her B.A. from San Diego State University in 1970. She began her own marketing research firm in 1975 after five years as director of marketing research in the college textbook division of CRM Books, located in Del Mar, CA. In 1979-2012 Friedman lived in Los Angeles, while her husband William F. Friedman, M.D. was chairman of the department of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She has been very active in many charitable organizations at UCLA, among others, serving on the Board of Advisors of the UCLA Medical Center, and the Board of Visitors of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In 1993, Friedman was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to the State Board of Directors of the California Science Center, located inExposition Park. Since 2001, she has been an active member of the Science Center Foundation.
Bruce Karatz is a homebuilder and philanthropist noted for his role as CEO in the development of KB Home from 1972 through 2006, and for his philanthropic efforts to help re-build Los Angeles after the L.A. Riots and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. A graduate of Boston University, Karatz received his Juris Doctor degree from USC in 1970. Since 1972 he has been with KB Home, initially leading its French division, and serving as its CEO since 1986. He changed the company’s business model to provide customized homes for middle class families. In 2005, Karatz led KB Home’s efforts to rebuild sections of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Since May 2010, Mr. Karatz has worked as a full-time volunteer and financial supporter of a non-profit agency, HomeBoy Industries. A recipient of many awards recognizing his philanthropic contributions over the years, Karatz supported as a Board Member the following organizations: Rand Corporation, DARE, Children’s Institute International, National Park Foundation, KCET, Pitzer College, Coro, and Wilshire Boulevard Temple (President).
A native Angeleno, Michael Kraus attended Harvard-Westlake School and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Bucknell University, Class of 1994. He began his career with the New York based private equity firm, Capital and Chancery’s principal investment, Big Flower Holdings. Between 1995 and 1999, he oversaw the acquisitions of more than twenty companies for Big Flower, culminating in a $2 billion go-private transaction in 1999.
Since then, Kraus held a variety of principal positions at various investment companies and currently is a principal at OpenGate Capital, where he provides acquisition analysis, transaction execution and portfolio management. In addition to his involvement with Phoenix House he serves on the Alumni Association Board of Directors of Bucknell University.
Chris Weitz is an accomplished motion picture producer, director and writer whose achievements include such hit films as American Pie, About a Boy, The Golden Compass, and New Moon, based on the second novel in the best-selling Twilight series, which has grossed over $700 million worldwide. He also directed the critically acclaimed father-son drama, A Better Life. In 2002, he co-directed the award-winning hit film About a Boy, for which he adapted the screenplay from Nick Hornby’s novel. He also adapted and directed the Oscar-winning epic fantasy adventure The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. In 2011, Weitz was honored with the Phoenix House Achievement Award.