(The following article about Times-Mirror-Newsday’s hidden history was written before the 2000 merger between the Tribune Company and Times-Mirror-Newsday. It first appeared in the March 6, 1991 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly Downtown.)
Los Angeles Times Publisher Harrison Gray Otis had three daughters. In 1894, a then- 30-year-old Los Angeles Times employee named Harry Chandler married one of his daughters, Marion Otis, and was soon appointed to be the Los Angeles Times’ business manager. As Harry Chandler replaced his aging father-in-law as top man at the Los Angeles Times during the early 20th Century, the newspaper became known as a Chandler family, not an Otis family, mass media operation.
After becoming the Los Angeles Times’ business manager, Harry Chandler went into the Southern California and Mexican real estate speculation and land business in a big way. He organized syndicates among Los Angeles’ bankers, railroad men, industrialists and other real estate industry figures and, by the time he replaced General Harrison Gray Otis as Los Angeles Times publisher when Otis died in 1917, Harry Chandler’s real estate syndicate network was the largest in California.
According to the Thinking Big book, “the single activity that established Harry Chandler’s power within local ruling circles” in California “was his real estate speculation.” By the 1930s, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler “owned more than two million acres in ranches, agricultural property, cattle and cattle operations and suburban land,” including 800,000 acres of land in Mexico, 300,000 acres of Tejon Land Company land in California and investments in Hawaii’s Dillingham Company, according to Thinking Big.
In the 1920s, Harry Chandler also joined over 50 corporate boards of directors. Among the companies which Harry Chandler directed were the following: Security Bank; Los Angeles First National Trust & Savings Bank; Los Angeles Investment Company; Goodyear Tire & Rubber; TWA; Union Oil of California; Colorado River Land Co.; and Los Angeles Steamship Company.
Harry Chandler was also both a Stanford University Trustee and a Trustee of the California Institute of Technology. In addition, Los Angeles Times publisher Chandler set up “numerous dummy corporations and secret trusts,” according to Thinking Big.
As a result of combining real estate speculation, corporate boardroom seat accumulation and business stock investment/manipulation activity with anti-labor mass media journalism, Harry Chandler became almost as rich as Harry Guggenheim’s family or Laurance Rockefeller. The Thinking Big book observed that “estimates of his fortune ranged from a low of $200 million to a high of over half-a-billion dollars; the [Los Angeles] Times newsroom had it that he was the 11th-richest man in the world.” The same book also noted that, despite his huge annual earnings, Harry Chandler “paid only $2,000 a year in taxes in the early 1920s.”
Los Angeles Times publisher Chandler’s business activity included involvement in the oil industry. In the 1920s, according to Thinking Big, Chandler “developed controlling interests in several local oil companies and had worked with the Royal Dutch Shell interests in their attempt to gain stock control of Union Oil Company…”
On his deathbed in 1944, at the age of 80, Harry Chandler, according to Thinking Big, “is said to have ordered the destruction of his and General Otis’ papers” and “not wanting to let others know how he had achieved his fortune and power, he had told his children that he didn’t want any family or newspaper history published.” He did, however, leave “a detailed trust arrangement to pass on his vast fortune to the new generation of Chandlers.”
Next: Times-Mirror-Newsday Chandler Dynasty’s Hidden History—Part 3