And he loved sports. He wanted the freedom to be one of the boys, and they wouldn't let him do it. His mother, Dorothy Buffum Chandler, known as "Mama Buff" to the family, says he was a "very conscientious little boy, never any problem. And to understand the pressure on Otis Chandler, you have to know a story this determined woman tells. It's about the time Otis, at six, riding a pony over some jumps, was thrown and badly injured. Mama Buff scooped him up, jumped in the station wagon, raced to the emergency room of a nearby hospital, and was told her son was dead.
She refused to believe it, rushed him to another hospital, and insisted on a particular doctor, who revived him. He was supposed not to go, just to take charge here [at the Times].
It was my strength and my will. It is almost eerie talking to Mama Buff after interviewing her son, because their perceptions of him are congruent, like triangles that fit over one another. She sees him as strong, kind, ambitious, not for himself but for the Times, not the spoiled son of a wealthy family. She calls him a compassionate, warm, loving person, very close to his family.
In interviews he is sometimes described as aloof, distant, controlled. When Otis Chandler is describing himself at one point his voice drops very low, becomes vulnerable and bruised, and he says, "I don't agree with some adjectives or some connotions -- the Halberstam book ["The Powers That Be"], for example, that says I have a moat around me, and I'm not an introvert.
I am industrious and hard working; I'm not part of the spoiled rich. I think I'm a friendly person. And I think i'm a loving person. I love my family, and I love certain people. And I love life. He says "I'm a loving person" gently, almost defensively, as though there were someone in another room who'd accused him of lacking that quality. There is a certain sadness as he talks. When we reach the end of the interview and he is asked routinely if his wife will talk with me about him, he shifts uncomfortably.
There is a pained silence. She and I are probably going to go through a divorce, which is very unfortunate after 28 years. It happens to people. I never thought it would happen to me. But it's happening to me now. I have great regard for her. I think life is tough on marriages today.
She's a career woman. It's tough to combine my life and the expectations that I have for a wife and for her to have a career too. She's an urban planner , has her own architectural and urban planning firm. Those who know him intimately suggest that he's very upset by it, that the failure of this marriage is the biggest blow he's ever had. They wonder if the very competitiveness Otis Chandler thrives on has been a factor in the breakup.
He used to delight in picking Missy up, hoisting her over his head as if she were a barbell, says one acquaintance. The family includes Norman 27, now in his fourth year as a Times management trainee, learning the business as his father did before, from janitor to general assignment reporter, in the hope of succeeding his father. Norman Chandler describes his father as "multifaceted, powerful -- in more ways than one -- and fatherly.
He always spent enough time with us. His escape for many years was his family. He taught us all to ski, surf, camp, hunt, swim -- all five kids. He loved being a parent. And," Norman says proudly, "he's the world's most powerful surf nazi -- that's a southern California term for somebody who's into something. There ought to be a Beach Boys record -- maybe like their unmistakably Californian "Good Vibrations" -- playing in the background while you read about Otis Chandler.
In order to understand Otis Chandler, the force behind the Times Mirror empire, you have to understand that as a Westerner he looks at the East with a certain amused contempt. But he realizes that the ultimate decision on whether any publishing empire is truly great still comes from the Eastern establishment. That is why the Los Angeles Times has been quietly taking full-page FYI" ads in the prestigious Eastern papers to run excerpts of its most ambitious stories -- to show the preppy Eastern kids that they don't have all the marbles, all the mibsies on the block.
It goes back in a way to the fact that Otis Chandler was shipped off as a boy away from his beloved California, to a prestigious Eastern prep school, Phillips Academy, Andover. Mama Buff makes no bones about the reason why this heir to one of the most wealthy and powerful families in southern California was sent East. It was partly Andover's reputation for an academic excellence she felt didn't exist in California prep schools then, but also because "no one knew who his father was there; he had to make it on his own. When Otis Chandler talks about Andover, he says with a half laugh, "I didn't choose it.
They [his parents] felt I should be challenged more. He was the only kid from California, which was considered the Wild West at the time, so he was something of an outsider, learning to be independent, beefing up his aggressiveness and competitiveness. Again, he was apart, wanting to be one of the guys, and it may have reinforced what one detached observer calls "his need to prove himself.
His longtime friend, racing car driver John Thomas, calls Chandler "super-competitive. It was Thomas who taught Chandler race car driving. He listens, and that's rare. It's not that Chandler is adverse to publicity for his paper; he calls himself a salesman for the West Coast. It's the false image of California in print that bothers him.
When he talks about the Eastern misconceptions of California life, it's as though he's talking about a planet that aliens don't appreciate. They think there has to be something wrong with an area that has so many opportunities -- as we do -- to create an interesting lifestyle, something wrong with anyone that likes to have this kind of weather [ in the winter]. It's almost a masochistic tendency. And we know you have the Armand Hammer and the Getty and Norton Simon and all these great private art collections, but we do not like to admit it. We'll die before we admit that really, secretly we'd like to live in southern California.
There's a lac of information and, I think, an attitude that's hard to describe -- it's almost that life should be more difficult than one finds it in southern California, that there's something to be said for the long, hard winters, and that it's almost not fair for you Californians to have so much in your favor. It's almost not fair for Otis Chandler to have had so much in his favor, you might think, unless you remember that remark about his divorce -- "It's one of those awful things that's happened to me.
For Otis Chandler, one of those was missing out on the Olympics, although his shot put record was second best in the world, because he sprained his thumb. The company was bankrupt. The case dragged on from through , and Chandler was among those charged by the government with making false and misleading statements about the investments. In his book "The Power That Be," David Halberstam explains the Geo Tek scandal in detail, noting, "It was a humiliating moment, particularly for a man who had been the handsome young hero of American journalism, who cared so much about his image. It seriously affected his position in American journalism.
But not his paper success. The Times is the second largest paper in weekday circulation in the nation 1,, and the first in advertising lineage , , It is the most profitable newspaper in the world; revenues for the Times Mirror Corporation's six newspapers, including the L. It was press critic A. Liebling who once suggested that freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. Does Citizen Chandler agree? There are more and more responsible publishers and newspapers that take very seriously the whole issue of freedom of the press and don't use the press for their own benefit.
Rather, they use it for the benefit of the people they can influence, to hopefully bring about meaningful improvement and changes in our society.
When Otis Chandler took over the L. Times in , it was considered one of the worst papers in the country, a parochial one that favored the conservative wealthy among Chandler friends and interests, and acted as an organ for the Republican Party in southern California. Chandler himself is proud of taking the Times, in his words, "from a reasonably adequate local paper to a paper of national and some international importance. Under Chandler the paper has gone from one foreign correspondent to 20 overseas bureaus and 11 in the US.
Washington bureau chief Jack Nelson says the single most important thing Chandler has done as publisher is to live up to what he promised when he took over: It's all part of Otis's wanting to have a presence on the East Coast and wanting the country to know. Chandler has reputation for hiring top editors and reporters and letting them do their jobs without interference, for being an innovative and supportive and supportive boss. He was a reporter and editor once himself, insisted on and wrote the tradition-shattering editorial backing a Rockefeller nomination in against Goldwater, which enlarged southern California conservative Republicans, conservative to the core, and brought a firestorm down on the Times.
As a reporter, he was most proud of a seven-part series he did on emotionally disturbed children. It is written with a sensitivity that would surprise some of his critics. Of Camarillo State Hospital he wrote, "The hospital is a city of red-tiled roofs, blue-denimed patients and misplaced memories. There are those who regard Otis Chandler as a man with an ego as big as Beverly Hills and a lack of empathy for minorities.
A story is told about some of the Times's shortcomings in coverage in its own backyard in the early days of civil rights demonstrations. He was initially miserable; the other students all seemed richer, better-educated and more sophisticated. Southern California was considered a cultural backwater, and despite his family's vast wealth and power, Chandler felt like a hick. He was skinny all right -- 6 feet 1, pounds -- but he played varsity soccer and basketball, high-jumped and ran the mile, and his successes gave him an identity.
Still, he wanted to be bigger and stronger, so shortly after graduation, he took up weightlifting. By the time he enrolled at Stanford University in , he weighed about pounds. His Stanford roommate, Norman Nourse, suggested that he try the shotput -- heaving a pound iron ball.
Two years later, he was considered a cinch to be one of three shotputters on the U. Chandler liked the shotput and weightlifting, he once said, because they were individual sports, and he could be judged on his own merits. He was, in general, something of a loner, a trait he traced partly to "spending my young years on that ranch in Sierra Madre, a little remote, rather than on a neighborhood street with a lot of kids. Many people found him a bit distant -- cool, controlled, difficult to know well -- and these qualities became more pronounced as he matured and increasingly tried to escape the burden of being a Chandler.
After graduating from Stanford, he tried to enroll in an Air Force training program. He was turned down because he was 17 pounds heavier than the maximum allowed for jet pilots, so he starved himself and quickly lost the weight. He was rejected anyway; his shoulders and hips were still too big to fit into the cockpit of a jet. Growing up, Chandler had often said he'd like to be a doctor, although he later conceded, "I was never an outstanding scholar. He had married his college sweetheart, Marilyn Brant -- having proposed to her on his 23rd birthday on the seventh hole of the Pebble Beach golf course -- and they had a baby boy Norman, after Otis' father but no plans and no substantial income.
Like his father, who had also been kept on tight purse strings by his father, Otis often split the bill with his fiancee or let her pick up the tab when they dated. As a boy of 5 or 6, he had frequently accompanied his father to the office and slid down the chutes that were used to drop papers from the pressroom to the delivery trucks. In college, he had sometimes worked summers at the paper, most often using his physical strength to move printing plates and other heavy items and equipment.
When he went home after his time in the Air Force, though, he didn't envision journalism as his life's work. The night he arrived home, his young family's possessions crammed into a used station wagon and rented trailer, his mother and father welcomed him enthusiastically. The next evening, a Friday, his father -- "grinning like a Cheshire cat," Chandler would always remember -- handed him a sheet of paper. On it, neatly typed, was a seven-year "executive training program," scheduled to begin that Sunday night. He gradually worked his way through every department at the paper: Most of his early jobs in the training program were just that -- jobs, "a grinding routine," he later said -- and because his father wanted him to have as many Times experiences and meet as many Times employees as possible, his schedule was constantly changing.
That's when I decided this was the business for me. Chandler was no typical rookie. From the start, he wrote periodic first-person columns, prominently displayed in the front section of the paper, musing about the life of an athlete or the quirks of an outboard motor. He wrote offbeat feature stories, such as one about the people who feed sharks at the aquarium. And he wrote an exhaustive, if somewhat ponderous, seven-part series about the treatment of emotionally disturbed children. He was also the only reporter, rookie or veteran, whose name regularly appeared in both the Sports section, which chronicled his continuing exploits as a competitive weightlifter, and in the society pages, where his attendance at various black-tie events always rated a mention.
In the Chandler family had started a second newspaper, an afternoon tabloid called the Los Angeles Mirror, and as part of his training program, Otis worked there too. As he did in every posting at The Times, he filled notebook after notebook with his thoughts on possible improvements. He also complained that the paper's editor and publisher "never Instead they always find new ways to spend money. Norman Chandler was delighted by this practical evidence that Otis had absorbed his childhood lessons of prudence and thrift.
Soon there was talk of Otis becoming publisher of the Mirror when he finished his training program -- most likely as one of the final steps before he became publisher of The Times. But the Mirror continued to falter, and his parents decided they didn't want his first command to be that of a sinking ship.
But he was never specific, and the word 'publisher' was never mentioned. In October , continuing his climb into the executive ranks, Chandler was named special assistant to his father. Two years later, he was made marketing manager of The Times. About that time, Otis began telling Nick Williams, the editor of the paper, the kinds of improvements he envisioned making if and when he had the authority.
Then, on April 11, , Norman Chandler invited more than people to a luncheon at the Biltmore Bowl ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, where he promised a "special announcement. On that wisp of a lure, the room filled up with the cream of the Southern California establishment: There was an air of anticipation as the elder Chandler stepped to the microphone and said, after a bit of reminiscing, "I hereby appoint, effective as of this moment, Otis Chandler as publisher of The Times.
He recalled almost four decades later having had "no inkling what my dad was going to say until an hour before the luncheon. I was just told to be at the Biltmore an hour early for a civic luncheon. Most historians credit Otis' mother -- "Buff" to her friends and family -- with persuading her husband to make their son his successor. Otis himself offered contradictory explanations of his mother's role in his promotion, befitting a mother-son relationship that had its share of paradox.
He once said that she had received -- and sought -- more recognition than she deserved for many changes at the paper, including his own rise, and that his father had long been underestimated. But in a letter to his mother 12 years later, Otis referred to her as "that person who made it possible for me to provide leadership to The Times," adding: The truth probably falls in the middle.
Some close to the family and the paper suggest that it might have been Mrs. Chandler who asked board members to pressure her husband to step aside as publisher so he could devote his full attention to his chairmanship of the parent Times Mirror company, which was about to embark on a major diversification program. Norman Chandler, then near his 60th birthday, saw the logic in the change. The only other possible publisher in the family, however, was Norman's younger brother Philip, then general manager of The Times and a member of the Times Mirror board. As it happened, the consultants also recommended that, to ensure stability, the new publisher be capable of holding the job at least 15 years.
Since mandatory retirement age for the publisher was then 65, that conveniently eliminated the year-old Philip. And that apparently gave Mrs. Chandler the opening she needed. Buff Chandler was the daughter of a prominent Long Beach family, owners of the successful Buffums department store. Her father had been mayor of Long Beach. But in the social pecking order of the Southern California elite, she was seen as a cut below the Chandlers, and they never let her forget it. They "never thought she was good enough to marry Norman, and she was out to prove them wrong," her son said several years after her death.
They never forgave her for her apparent role in Otis' ascension over Philip. His sudden elevation and his record as an athlete, not a scholar, at Stanford, led some members of the family and their friends to openly wonder if he had the intellectual capacity to run The Times. Thomas, who was editor of the Times from to , said that although Chandler was basically "a C-plus student Direct, decisive and at times startlingly frank in both his personal and professional lives, Chandler told people what he expected of them, and he didn't have much patience with failure.
When many top Times executives proved either reluctant to change or incapable of meeting his standards after he became publisher, he replaced 22 of 23 department heads within the first year. He also began hiring top reporters and editors from other major news organizations and opening Times bureaus around the world. Chandler was just then becoming interested in big game hunting, and his approach to hiring was much the same: One of the first examples came in , when The Times hired Jim Murray as a sports columnist.
Murray had helped create Sports Illustrated and was one of its stars. As a Times columnist, he would become one of the most celebrated sportswriters ever. In the next three years, The Times changed as perhaps no other American newspaper has ever done in such a short time. Staffing in Washington and Sacramento was expanded. In one of their biggest coups, they brought in Robert J. Donovan, the Washington Bureau chief of the New York Herald-Tribune and one of the most respected journalists in the country, to be chief of the expanded Times bureau in the capital.
And in January , they hired a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist away from the Denver Post. As much as any other change at the paper, the arrival of Paul Conrad -- brilliant, sharp-penned and liberal -- served notice that an entirely new breed of Chandler was in charge. To grasp the breadth of the changes, it is necessary to understand what The Times had been. More than merely a newspaper with a conservative editorial policy, it was an openly partisan mouthpiece for the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Not only did it champion GOP candidates, its editors helped select them.
Not only did it not, as a rule, endorse Democrats for elective office; it didn't cover their campaigns. Readers could be excused for thinking that only one political party existed in Southern California. For most of the first 80 years of its existence, the paper was such a journalistic laughingstock that humorist S. Perelman once wrote that while traveling through the Western United States by train, he asked a porter to bring him a newspaper and "unfortunately, the poor man, hard of hearing, brought me the Los Angeles Times.
Chandler realized that to build up The Times' reputation, he had to demand fair and nonpartisan news coverage. His efforts led him directly into confrontation with a powerful force for the status quo: During Chandler's first year as publisher, the paper ran one of the most important series in its history, stories that helped define the new Los Angeles Times.
The conservative movement that would lead to Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy in and to Ronald Reagan's subsequent rise was in its nascence. On the fringes of that movement -- and especially active in Southern California -- was an ultra-right-wing organization known as the John Birch Society. They wanted the U.
They saw the sinister hand of communism behind such government initiatives as fluoridation of the water supply and integration of the schools.
But when Williams, the editor, suggested that the paper look into the organization anyway, both Otis and Norman Chandler gave him the go-ahead. Reporter Gene Blake produced a five-part expose, written in calm, matter-of-fact language. The stories described the Birchers' extremist tactics and positions and, largely through their own words, depicted them as a threat to, rather than a defender of, the American way of life.
After the series was published, Otis asked for an editorial criticizing the Birchers. When Williams showed him the piece, the publisher said it wasn't tough enough. Williams wrote a new one, warning that the Birchers' extremism and smear tactics were subversive acts that could "sow distrust and weaken the very strong case for conservatism. The series and editorial landed like a bombshell. More than 15, readers canceled their subscriptions, and Chandler's breach with some members of his family was widened still further.
Philip Chandler resigned from the Times Mirror board seven months later. But the series also served notice that The Times was in the process of becoming a different -- and much better -- newspaper. George Cotliar, who joined the paper three years before Chandler became publisher and served as an editor for almost 40 years, said The Times had been widely regarded as "a crappy newspaper and a politically biased newspaper, and the Birch series and the editorial were a statement to the staff too.
That was far from the only example of Chandler's reversal of long-held dogma at The Times. The gubernatorial campaign was another.
Otis Chandler: Man of the Times - Kindle edition by Daniel Alef. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like. Otis Chandler (November 23, – February 27, ) was the publisher of the Los Angeles . Under Otis Chandler, The Times became a critically lauded newspaper. . Parish Lovejoy Award recipients · Los Angeles Times people · Otis family · People from Los Angeles · Stanford Cardinal men's track and field athletes.
In , the paper had covered the governor's race between Republican William F. Knowland and Democrat Pat Brown in its traditional way: Brown's campaign was virtually ignored while Knowland's was championed. In an extreme example of the paper's penchant for treating Democrats like nonentities, one lengthy article featured Knowland's attack on "my opponent," "the Democratic candidate for governor," who was described as a tool of "union bosses" and socialists.
Not once did the article refer to Brown by name. When, by late September, it appeared that Brown might win -- as he ultimately did -- Times political editor Kyle Palmer, the paper's lead reporter on the campaign, wrote a column acknowledging that the situation "sounds a trifle grim for us Republicans. By , Palmer was gone and the gubernatorial race between Brown and Richard Nixon was covered primarily by two new reporters: Of all the political figures to benefit from The Times' partisanship over the years, none had been more favored, or more successful, than Nixon.
Since his first run for Congress in , he had been championed by The Times as he successfully ran for U. Senate and then for the vice presidency on the Eisenhower ticket. He had the paper's support when he ran unsuccessfully for president in Williams and Frank McCullough, one of the paper's two managing editors, agreed at the outset of the gubernatorial campaign to monitor the coverage inch by inch to ensure that both candidates were covered fairly and equally.
The paper warmly endorsed Nixon but also praised Brown's accomplishments in the same editorial. Nixon, by all accounts, was stunned by the turnabout. When he lost, he delivered a diatribe that would long haunt him, bitterly denouncing the press coverage -- by which, it was widely realized, he meant The Times -- and promising, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference. Years later, Otis Chandler would insist that the paper "wasn't as bad as some people said when I took over.
My dad had already started to make improvements. It's true that in Norman Chandler had promoted Williams, a year Times veteran, to the top editor's job and had given him instructions to initiate a more aggressive and evenhanded approach to the news. But the newsroom was riddled with hacks and Norman Chandler was unwilling to make sweeping personnel changes or to approve the expenditures necessary to effect significant improvement.
His son was perfectly willing, indeed eager, to do and spend whatever was necessary to achieve journalistic respectability. Otis and Williams -- "perhaps the ablest newspaper editor of his generation," in Halberstam's words -- became a formidable team. Within four years, Time magazine and others were routinely mentioning The Times as one of the three or four best newspapers in the country. In a cover story on Chandler in , Newsweek said, "In the six years since his father made him publisher of The Times, Chandler has staged one of the most remarkable palace revolutions in U.
By the time he left the publisher's office, it had increased tenfold during his tenure.
The booming Southern California economy helped immeasurably, of course. So did the shutdown in January of the Mirror and the Examiner, the morning Hearst newspaper. With the Mirror still losing money, it had been Chandler who wanted it closed, and his father had reluctantly concurred. When the Hearsts and Chandlers agreed to fold the two papers, The Times acquired a monopoly in the increasingly lucrative morning market, while Hearst's Los Angeles Herald-Express renamed the Herald Examiner was left with a monopoly in the increasingly problematic afternoon market.
The agreement made sense financially for The Times, but it proved to be a boon in another way as well. Under Chandler's direction, The Times scrambled to hire the best of the reporters and editors from the two defunct papers. Seldom has a newspaper had such an opportunity -- to meld the best of three staffs.
Thomas, who was among the editors brought over from the Mirror, said he believed that the windfall of local talent was as responsible for The Times' subsequent success as the hiring of big guns from the East. The Hearst paper was subsequently hit by a devastating strike and ceased publication in Chandler was both more willing than most publishers to reinvest the paper's rising profits in editorial improvements and more visionary in his approach to newspapering. He foresaw the sprawling megalopolis that Los Angeles and its neighboring counties would become, and he wanted The Times to be the dominant paper "from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.
He started the Orange County edition to serve the burgeoning population there -- the first such satellite plant for any metropolitan daily in the country. Concerned by the growing competition from television, Chandler urged his editors to transform the paper into a regional daily newsmagazine that placed a high premium on analysis, interpretation and good writing -- not just covering the day's events but putting them in context and doing so in a lively and compelling fashion.
Ever concerned with the paper's image and visibility nationally, he teamed with Philip Graham, then publisher of the Washington Post, to create the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service to distribute the paper's stories to client papers. Unencumbered by union contracts, Chandler made major technological improvements at The Times, shifting from traditional "hot type" letterpress production to more flexible photo-composition and offset printing and making The Times the first major newspaper in the United States to computerize typesetting.
At the same time, he shifted the paper's editorial page philosophy from the extreme right to slightly left of center. His goal, he once quipped, was to make it a "militant middle-of-the-road paper. He moved gradually at first, then much more quickly, especially after hiring Day, who joined the paper as chief editorial writer in and later became editor of the editorial pages.
Although Chandler had been opposed to Sen. Barry Goldwater in the presidential race, he had deferred to his father and reluctantly agreed to run an editorial before the Republican convention pledging The Times' traditional support to whomever the party chose as its nominee -- and that turned out to be Goldwater. But in , the paper endorsed Democrat Alan Cranston for U. Senate over Republican Max Rafferty, whom it called "an outspoken, militant conservative. Although The Times had, on rare occasion, endorsed conservative Democrats for state legislative and U.
House seats, the backing of a Democrat for such a high office "was a momentous decision," Chandler said in the interview. The increasingly liberal stand on most major issues angered many in the Chandler family. Until shortly before his death in , Chandler's father had helped insulate him from those protests. But Otis had certainly been aware of the family pressure. Times," he said in the interview. Times and felt there were a lot of things I could have done differently. The shift on the editorial page came as the region itself, once dependably Republican, was becoming less conservative.
I'm glad we did what we did.
Chandler's primary role was to provide the impetus, framework and financial support for change, rather than dictating specifics. But he did send memos to Williams, the editor, periodically in his early years as publisher -- criticizing the business and sports sections, for example, and complaining about the content and design of the Sunday magazine, then as now called West.
Williams was 21 years older than Chandler and often pulled in his reins. Chandler later praised his editor for frequently "reminding a young publisher that you can't change a whole paper overnight. By the time Thomas became editor in , many of the major changes had been made, resistance had greatly diminished and Chandler was stepping back to take a broader view. That was Chandler's style as a boss, he said: Pick the right people and stay out of their way. Thomas was largely responsible for the great length and literary style of many Times stories -- qualities for which the paper became both celebrated and criticized.
Even Chandler said some of those long stories made the paper seem "gray, somewhat dull" at times. Chandler's reign as publisher was not an uninterrupted, year victory lap. Some critics felt that his zeal for national recognition led The Times to underemphasize local news, particularly about minority communities. Chandler contributed to that perception in , when he responded to a television interviewer's questions about the paper's coverage of black and Latino communities by saying it was difficult to get those groups to read The Times.
If you will, it's too complicated. Chandler later insisted that he hadn't meant to demean blacks and Latinos, but the remark haunted him -- and the paper -- for many years. Critics also thought his position at the top of the city's power structure prevented The Times from aggressively investigating that establishment.
When The Times consistently provided editorial support for various downtown redevelopment projects, civic activists were quick to say the projects would enhance the value of the Chandler family's real estate interests there. Chandler always denied any conflict of interest, and he invariably emerged from these controversies with his reputation for personal integrity intact. But in , he suffered his most damaging blow -- and it was, to a significant extent, self-inflicted. Jack Burke, Chandler's close friend since their days together at Stanford, had assembled an exploratory oil-drilling company called GeoTek in the late s and early '70s.
Chandler knew and trusted Burke. The two had hunted together, and Burke was the godfather of Chandler's eldest daughter, Cathleen. When Burke asked Chandler if he'd like to invest in his company -- and introduce Burke to other potential investors among the publisher's wealthy friends -- Chandler was happy to comply. According to official documents, he wrote and telephoned a number of such people, including Evelle Younger, the former state attorney general and Los Angeles County district attorney. When Burke was accused of fraud, Chandler too became a target of civil legal proceedings.
In August , the Wall Street Journal broke the story, which dragged on for several years before a federal court sentenced Burke to 30 months in prison.
He had family money, but he had looked on GeoTek as another chance to prove he could succeed on his own, and he wound up embarrassed and forced by the exposure to return his stock and finder's fees. For the first time in his life, he found his personal integrity seriously questioned. How could I have been so stupid? I apologized to my wife and my children and my mother and father and everyone on the board and all my department heads.
The GeoTek affair also damaged Chandler physically. For all his seeming calm and control throughout his life, he had suffered from sporadic bouts of insomnia and intestinal pain -- diagnosed as a spastic colon -- ever since he became publisher. The GeoTek debacle helped greatly exacerbate the colon problem. Chandler had his own ways of blowing off such stress -- like getting behind the wheel of a turbocharged Porsche. Because he had five children and heavy corporate responsibilities, his wife tried to dissuade him from this favored leisure-time activity.
But he persisted and in -- at age 50, after years of what he called "Walter Mitty fantasies about becoming a race car driver" -- finally got a chance to race professionally. He entered a six-hour endurance race in Watkins Glen, N. For several years, the pair had enjoyed a Saturday ritual. They would race their cars down the Pasadena Freeway at mph in the predawn hours en route to weightlifting sessions at the Times gym and double cheeseburgers at Tommy's, just west of downtown. Periodically, Chandler rented the now-defunct Riverside Raceway for a day so he, Thomas and their friends could race their cars.
Watkins Glen was to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of Chandler's life. He and Thomas finished sixth in a field of 72 cars -- third in their class of 22 -- a remarkable performance for a year-old rookie driver. Chandler was elated; many who knew him well and saw him after that race said they had rarely seen him happier.
Not long after, he left his wife, and three years later -- a year after he moved out of the Times publisher's office -- he and Whitaker, 12 years his junior, were married. I was 50, and I didn't want to be unhappy for the rest of my life.
People who knew the Chandlers well say Otis' first wife was enormously competitive. She was athletic, she surfed, she hunted and she was "always vying for equal status -- or greater status -- than Otis," said Howard Gilmore, one of Chandler's longtime hunting companions. Like many women of her generation, Marilyn Chandler had long put her own career interests on hold to raise their children.
But as the children grew up and she had more time available, she embarked on a career of her own -- "she got women's lib" is how Chandler put it -- and that exacerbated tensions between them. Despite the liberalization of The Times' editorial page under Chandler, he remained moderate, even conservative, on many issues, feminism among them. One had only to visit the men's room in his car and wildlife museum -- its walls covered with posters of scantily clad women draped over shiny sports cars -- to realize that his ultra-masculinity wasn't limited to guns, barbells, fast cars and motorcycles.
Chandler told his wife he wanted a divorce while the two were on vacation in Montana in Although the decision stunned her, friends said they had long seen the breakup coming. Almost 20 years after their divorce, the happily remarried Marilyn Brant DeYoung said she didn't think she'd been competitive with Chandler, "except on the tennis court, where I did get upset when he beat me.
Their son Harry concurred, although he also agreed with his mother that most of the family's leisure activities "revolved around what Dad wanted to do" -- camping, water skiing, cliff-jumping, surfing. By all accounts, the family enjoyed their outdoor experiences together, for Chandler focused on his children as intensely as he did on everything else that mattered in his life.
Many Chandler associates said his marriage's breakup and the end of his publishership were inextricably intertwined. He saw them both as Otis is someone who's very used to having his own way, and she impeded that. But William Thomas, who was Times editor when Chandler made his decision to step down as publisher, said he remembered sitting in a taxi with him in Madrid in -- before he'd met Whitaker, when he was still married to Missy -- and hearing Otis say he wanted to give up the publisher's job in three to five years.
Chandler was growing weary, worn down by the rigors of work and the burdens of responsibility, dispirited by GeoTek and his failing marriage, "getting by mostly on nervous energy, with big circles under my eyes," he later said. He was convinced that he had taken The Times about as far as he could, and he wanted more challenges -- and more freedom.
Like his father before him, he thought he should concentrate on companywide responsibilities, by succeeding Franklin D. Murphy as chairman of the Times Mirror board. Murphy was scheduled to retire soon, and Otis was determined to give up the publisher's job in , when he would have been publisher for 20 years -- "four years longer than my father," he often pointed out to those disappointed by his departure. Unlike his father, however, he had not insisted that his children follow him into leadership positions at The Times.
Although all three of his sons worked at the paper for varying periods, none ascended into the top executive ranks. Norman, the eldest, went through an executive training program and rose to be composing superintendent -- a position overseeing much of the physical production of the paper -- before leaving in , when he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He died in The youngest son, Michael, also worked in the paper's production departments, ultimately taking early retirement in a companywide buyout.
He lived out one of his father's fantasies when he became a professional race car driver, but nearly died in when his car slammed into a wall at the Indianapolis He eventually recovered from serious head injuries. And it became clear over the years that he did not have any such intention.
On March 5, , Chandler announced that Johnson would become the fifth publisher of The Times -- and the first since the paper's infancy who was not a member of the Otis or Chandler families. Chandler would assume the newly created position of editor in chief of Times Mirror and, on Jan. Chandler insisted that he wasn't giving up the journalistic chase or losing his competitive edge, simply assuming a larger corporate responsibility.
But most of his friends and associates said he didn't really have his heart in his new jobs. Both Thomas and Johnson said he hated being chairman. He missed the day-to-day challenge and the interaction with the editors and with the news. In , Chandler surrendered the titles of chairman and editor in chief, although he remained on the board and took on the largely ceremonial role of chairman of the board's executive committee. There was widespread speculation after he gave up his corporate titles that he had been gently nudged aside by long-disgruntled family members.
Heirs to other great newspaper dynasties have felt an obligation to remain deeply involved with their papers, virtually until their dying day, and Chandler's decision not to do so remained a topic of curiosity among his peers long after he left. Katharine Graham, who became publisher of the Washington Post three years after Chandler took over The Times, and who relied on him as a mentor in her first days on the job, said in a interview -- the day after her 82nd birthday, when she was still very much involved with the Post -- "I'm so committed to the company and so is 'Punch' [former New York Times Publisher Sulzberger] that I can't imagine one of us actually leaving.
But Chandler, asked often about his decision to leave, said: I decided it was time to be a little selfish, to give myself full time to the things I'd always enjoyed doing in bits and pieces. He may also have been frustrated by his inability to reach his stated goal of supplanting the New York Times as the most widely admired American newspaper.
Even when he was publisher, Chandler wasn't one of those workaholic bosses who could never let go.