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Rick Rozar, Founder of Internet Firm, Dies

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Rick L. Rozar, founder of one of the nation’s leading Internet purveyors of public records and a benefactor to neglected children, died at his Newport Beach home after he apparently fell from the roof.

Rozar, 44, was found by his fiancee about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday outside the front door of his $3-million home on Bayside Drive, overlooking Newport Bay, police said. The family identified the fiancee as Marianne Jongebreur.

It appeared that Rozar was working on a satellite dish system when he fell, said Newport Beach police Sgt. Mike McDermott.

“The best conclusion is that he fell either off the roof or off a ledge over the front door of the house,” McDermott said. “There’s an odd design to the house, with a vaulted entry hall. He fell just outside the door.”

Tammi Rozar said her brother was dismantling a satellite dish he planned to move to a house he had purchased in Laguna Beach.

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Rozar founded Santa Ana-based CDB Infotek in 1978, establishing it as one of the leading providers of on-line public records to insurance, legal, investigative, government and financial clients. The firm also tracks bankruptcies, issuing regular public reports on bankruptcy trends.

He engineered the sale of 70% of the business two years ago for more than $32 million, and sold his remaining interest this year for an undisclosed amount.

Rozar has long used his wealth to help abused and neglected children. He became involved 14 years ago with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a Washington-based organization.

Two years ago, he bought a building in Tustin to house the center’s Western regional office, said Shirley Goins, director of the Tustin center.

“The [biggest] shock was just losing Rick, and the suddenness of it,” Goins said. “The man was so young and vibrant. It’s going to be a great loss for the organization.”

Rozar joined the center’s national advisory board more than a year ago, she said. He was commended by the governor of Hawaii last year for his sponsorship of the Missing Children Center in the island state.

Goins described Rozar as an active director, who used his company to outfit the organization with computers and databases to help track missing children. He underwrote an annual fund-raiser last May with $30,000 of his own money, she said.

“He was really a champion for kids and this agency,” Goins said.

Rozar, a native of Anaheim, also spent the last four years on the board of directors for the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, supporting the organization with his time and contributions, said executive director Gene Howard.

“He just had a real passion for neglected and abused kids,” Howard said. “He was a very successful man, and he was very interested in sharing his good fortune with the abused kids of this county. He will be sorely missed. He was very generous and extremely passionate and kind--just a wonderful guy. You wonder why things like that happen to great people.”

Rozar, a former private investigator, started CDB Infotek as an insurance investigations business. He foresaw a growing marketplace for computerized databases that would automate the process for investigators.

Equifax’s Insurance Services Group bought a majority stake in the business in 1996, with Rozar staying on as president and chief executive. The company was later spun off as part of ChoicePoint Inc., a publicly traded company. He resigned when he sold his remaining interest this year.

As one of the leaders in the industry, CDB has drawn fire from critics who say such services jeopardize privacy by making personal information easily available.

This summer, the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog group, issued a report on how Congress has put “big-money corporate interests” ahead of the privacy interests of citizens.

The report named Rozar as one of the biggest “soft money” contributors for giving $100,000 to the Republican National Committee in October 1997.

“CDB is an information broker that compiles and sells information on individuals, largely from government records,” the report said. "[F]or $7, according to its Web site, the company will provide business subscribers with a person’s full name, date of birth; and Social Security, telephone and driver’s license numbers; as well as the names of possible relatives, property holdings tax liens and bankruptcies.”

Such concerns led CDB officials to help create the Individual Reference Service Group, which drafted a set of self-regulatory principals in 1997 for presentation to the Federal Trade Commission.

On Thursday, Derek Smith, ChoicePoint’s chief executive, described Rozar as “one of the pioneers in the business of automating and bringing to the public a new way to get at public-record data.”

Smith said CDB gave ChoicePoint a “wealth of information,” enabling its business customers to better collect and analyze the risks of doing business with people. He described Rozar’s death as “a very tragic circumstance.”

Debbie Marrs, CDB’s marketing vice president, said Rozar was a quiet leader who expressed his appreciation to loyal employees by throwing big parties in good years. In 1987, he invited the company’s 75 employees for a Christmas party in Las Vegas.

“He paid for everything--hotel, air fare, a banquet,” she said. “He wasn’t a corporate evangelist. He was more a person who led by example.”

More recently, Rozar formed a Laguna Beach firm to invest in real estate and high-tech businesses. His partner, Paul Tobin, said Thursday that Rozar Investments is the majority owner of Hubbub LLC, a start-up Internet services company providing an on-line marketplace for advertising agencies seeking to hire fashion models.

Tammi Rozar described her brother as a dedicated family man with little time for his few hobbies, which included golf and travel.

“Family was his No. 1 thing,” she said. “My daughters were very, very close with him and his kids. We just went on a trip to Maui in June with my kids and his kids. It was fabulous.”

In addition to his sister and his fiancee, Rozar is survived by a daughter, Shannon, 13, a son, Ryan, 12; his father, Jerry, and his stepmother, Doris; a brother, Randy, and five nieces.


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