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David Copley, Former San Diego Union-Tribune Owner, Dead at 60

David Copley dies in car crash

David Copley, the former owner and publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune, died after his car crashed Tuesday night. He was 60.

Getty ImagesCopley's friend Dr. Robert Singer told The San Diego Union-Tribune that it appeared he had a heart attack after leaving a board meeting for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and complaining that he was not feeling well. Copley underwent heart transplant surgery in 2005. It was unclear whether he crashed before or after the heart attack.

Copley inherited his position as the head of one of California's most prominent family-owned newspapers, but he was not born into his office.

His mother, Helen Hunt, married James Copley in 1965, and David Copley changed his name from Hunt to his adopted father's surname. James Copley was the owner of Copley Press, which published more than 20 newspapers and ran a wire service. Helen Hunt was his secretary and the two embarked on an affair that led to the dissolution of James Copley's first marriage.

Helen Copley would go on to control her husband's publishing empire after he died of brain and lung cancer in 1973. Her move to assume leadership of Copley Press triggered a fierce legal battle with James Copley's children from his first marriage, who accused her of looting their birthright. After nearly a decade-long fight, they ultimately settled for a cash payment, surrendering their claim to the family business.

David Copley held a series of executive positions with the publishing empire, ultimately taking over the newspaper chain as chairman of Copley Press in 2001, after his mother retired.

As newspapers faded, the family shed its print holdings. In 2009, it sold its one remaining newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, to a private equity firm.