Times Mirror Co. said Wednesday that Otis Chandler will relinquish his titles next January as chairman and editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles-based communications company. Robert F. Erburu will replace Chandler as chairman while keeping his current posts of president and chief executive of Times Mirror.
With the exception of a brief transition period in 1980, the change will mark the first time since Otis Chandler's family purchased the Los Angeles Times in 1882 that a family member has not been either chairman of Times Mirror or publisher of the company's flagship newspaper.
Chandler, 57, will become chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors on Jan. 1, 1986. The company will discontinue the title of editor-in-chief.
As executive committee chairman, Chandler will succeed Dr. Franklin D. Murphy, former Times Mirror chairman and chief executive, who will retire at age 70.
The succession, which the company said was part of a longstanding plan, was approved by the board Wednesday.
Chandler has served as chairman of Times Mirror since January, 1981, when he succeeded Murphy. Before that, he was vice chairman and, for 20 years, publisher of The Times. In April, 1980, he assumed the newly created post of editor-in-chief before adding the chairmanship the following year.
Erburu, 54, succeeded Murphy as chief executive in January, 1981. He was elected president of Times Mirror in 1974 and named chief operating officer in 1980.
A Ventura native and graduate of USC and Harvard Law School, Erburu joined Times Mirror in 1961 and served as general counsel and senior vice president.
Erburu sits on the board of the Brookings Institution in Washington, is a director of the American Newspaper Publishers Assn. and formerly was a director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Business Roundtable and the Business Council. In Southern California, Erburu is on the board of the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens, the Marlborough School, the Independent Colleges of Southern California and the YMCA.
Key Architect of Expansion
Times Mirror officials described Erburu as a key architect in what author David Halberstam has called "a dazzling series of purchases as part of a $500-million program of expansion and acquisition." Today, said Paine Webber Inc. analyst J. Kendrick Noble Jr., "Times Mirror is a leading participant in more media sectors than any other American company."
"Bob Erburu is quiet, but he gives you a feeling of knowledge and confidence," Noble said. "He's never flustered, and he's made very few mistakes. The company under Erburu has the most detailed long-range planning of any company I follow."
"After 30 years in the front ranks at the Los Angeles Times and Times Mirror, it is time for a change of pace," Chandler said. In Erburu, Chandler said, "Times Mirror has the right leader to maintain its past traditions, even as he takes the company forward as an increasingly powerful voice of the free press in the years to come."
Erburu called Chandler "one of the most significant figures in modern American journalism," whose "contributions have helped bring us to a place where we can make our second century worthy of the first."
John Morton, a newspaper analyst with the Washington brokerage firm of Lynch, Jones & Ryan, said: "I don't think the change will have any great difference because it will leave in place the people who have been running the company. I suspect Chandler will continue to have a deep interest in the direction of the company and remain an influence with a deep devotion to the quality of The Times' editorial product."
Under Chandler's hand, The Times experienced dramatic change, expanding from two to 34 foreign and domestic bureaus and winning nine of the newspaper's 13 Pulitzer prizes.
"Among newspaper groups where quality was of the essence, no one ran an operation like Otis Chandler," Halberstam wrote in his book "The Powers That Be." "He produced editorial quality and continued business success."
"No publisher in America improved a paper so quickly on so grand a scale . . . as Otis Chandler did," Halberstam added.
Otis Chandler became publisher of the Times in 1960 at age 32. He was the fourth member of the family to hold the post, a succession begun in 1882 when Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, Chandler's great grandfather, purchased the paper a year after its founding.
Gen. Otis was publisher of the paper until his death in 1917 and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Harry Chandler. Norman Chandler succeeded his father in 1944.
Chandler interests controlled about 31% of Times Mirror's common stock as of the most recent public report.
Times Mirror is a diversified communications company with interests in broadcast television, cable, microwave operations, book publishing and forest products. The company owns eight newspapers including Newsday on Long Island, the Dallas Times Herald, the Denver Post, the Hartford Courant, the Call-Chronicle in Allentown, Pa., and two newspapers in suburban Connecticut.