Former San Diego Union-Tribune owner and Publisher David Copley dies after crash near La Jolla home

LA JOLLA – Former San Diego Union-Tribune owner and publisher David Copley has died, hours after crashing his Aston Martin near his La Jolla home.

Copley, 60, died from an apparent heart attack at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, where he was taken after the crash, his friend, Dr. Robert Singer, told reporters outside the hospital. He called Copley ”a gentle soul” and ”a great San Diegan and beloved citizen of the world.”

Copley crashed his Aston Martin into a parked car on Silverado Street near Eads Avenue at 6:15 p.m., said San Diego police Officer David Stafford. It appears the crash was the result of a medical emergency, he said.

Copley’s family owned the Union-Tribune, part of a greater media empire that included newspapers and a wire service, for more than 80 years. In 2009, Copley sold the paper to a private equity firm, Beverly Hills-based Platinum Equity, and it was purchased last year by San Diego real estate investor Doug Manchester, who changed the name to U-T San Diego.

Before the crash, Copley, who had a heart transplant at Sharp Memorial Hospital in 2005 at age 53, left a Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego board meeting saying he didn’t feel well, Singer said.

Copley became publisher of the Union-Tribune in 2001, when his mother, Helen Copley, transferred leadership of the paper to him three years before she died.

Born David Hunt in San Diego in 1952, Copley took on the surname of his adoptive father, former publisher of the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune newspapers James Copley, who wed Copley’s mother in 1965. The Union and Tribune merged in 1992.

Under Copley’s stewardship, the Union-Tribune and Copley News Service won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for their coverage of disgraced ex-Rep. Randy ”Duke” Cunningham and the bribe-taking that sent him to prison.

Copley’s own run-ins with the law were well documented, as were the lavish parties he was known for hosting in his younger days. He was arrested several times for drunken driving beginning in the 1980s, once serving a week in a county labor camp, but the last such bust occurred a decade ago, in 2002.

In recent years, Copley continued his family’s philanthropy, funding Broadway musicals and Christo art installations. He also donated $5 million to Sharp Healthcare following his heart transplant and $6 million to UCLA to develop a center for costume design.

Retired Union-Tribune editor Karin Winner, who worked closely with Copley, told U-T San Diego that Copley ”had an enormous capacity for humor and an uncanny ability to understand the bigger picture without having all the facts, which was a trait his mother had.”

”I know that it was hard on him to let the paper be sold but he thought it was what was best for the community and the employees at the time,” she said. ”I’m really glad that he had the past few years to live his life the way he wanted to.”

5 Responses to "Former San Diego Union-Tribune owner and Publisher David Copley dies after crash near La Jolla home"

  1. OUT! in Rainbow   November 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Nasty self loathing closet case bites the dust. So what? Under his stewardship the UT was nothing but a hatefest against the LGBT community. No tears shed here.

  2. R u kidding me?   November 22, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Come on village news, how can you allow nasty and disrespectful comments like this? I pray God opens your closed ignorant mind.

  3. Ray (the real one)   November 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I thought this Copley "was" lite in his loafers. Why would homosexuals hate one of their own.

  4. Red Head   November 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Wow. What a hateful and shameful thing for someone to say about another human being. Ever hear of Karma Comment #1? The evil you wish on others will come back on you two fold.

  5. BonsallGayGuy   November 24, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Out in Rainbow,

    Thank you for that particularly insensitive and gratuitous comment. Gay and lesbian people should have an absolute right to live their respective lives as they see fit. And while it is greatly unfortunate that someone might choose to live in the closet due to social prejudice and bigotry, coming out should always remain the exclusive choice of the individual involved. Unless you knew Mr. Copley personally (I didn’t) you are in no position to judge him or his choices. I think we would be much better served by helping to promote a more open society so that gay and lesbian people won’t feel that their only option in life is to hide.

    Some background here might also be helpful. Approximately 5 years ago Mr. Copley was ‘outed’ by a columnist in one of San Diego’s gay newspapers. In regards to this one particular publication I use the term "newspaper" quite loosely (it was actually a rag whose journalistic integrity would make the National Enquirer look scholarly by comparison). The columnist and the editorial staff saw fit to allow to be published certain unsubstantiated and frankly irrelevant details of Mr. Copley’s private life that any respectable publication would never see fit to be made available for public consumption. Why was this done? It would appear that Mr. Copley declined to contribute to the columnist’s favorite charities and because of this somehow earned the columnist’s wrath.

    Ironically the paper in question suddenly folded about 2 years ago in the midst of a major financial scandal that left creditors, advertisers and employees unpaid. The publisher, almost certainly facing fraud charges, committed suicide 2 months later by jumping off the 7th floor terrace of a fashionable gay bar located on the top of the Park Manor Hotel in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood of San Diego.


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