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George J. Mason, 74; Founder of Armenian Newspaper, Financier

October 08, 2005|Jon Thurber | Times Staff Writer

George J. Mason, who founded the California Courier, the first English-language Armenian newspaper in the state, and had a significant career in finance as a senior managing director of the Los Angeles office of Bear, Stearns & Co., has died. He was 74.

Mason died Oct. 5, according to a statement from MGM Mirage, where Mason was a longtime board member. He was being treated for cancer at the time of his death.

Terry Lanni, chief executive officer of MGM Mirage, which owns the Bellagio and Mandalay Bay casinos in Las Vegas, called Mason "an incredibly influential figure in the gaming and finance industries."

Born in Los Angeles, Mason earned his bachelor's degree in Slavic studies from USC. He went on to earn a master's degree in political science from Columbia University.

Mason served in the Air Force in the early 1950s. In 1958, he founded the California Courier in Fresno and served as editor until 1970.

"I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that George's California Courier was and will be remembered as a journal of Armenian life in California," Vartan Oskanian, Armenia's minister of foreign affairs, said in a statement released by MGM Mirage.

"George left a legacy for the Armenian community in the written word," said Raffi Hamparian, a member of the board of directors of the Armenian National Committee of America.

"He is a tribute to the Armenian experience in America that largely emerged from nothing to become a vibrant and active community."

After leaving the paper, Mason entered the world of finance. He worked for Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Investment Co. for several years in the 1970s before joining Bear, Stearns & Co. in Los Angeles in 1973. According to the announcement from MGM Mirage, Mason was a senior managing director at Bear, Stearns & Co. from 1973 until his death.

Mason is survived by his wife of 52 years, Sally; their six daughters, Cassandra Goehner, Melanie Goodman, Teresa Mason, George Ann Mason, Diana Chakalian and Mary Mason; and his sister, Shirley Rakoobian.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. James Armenian Church, 4950 W. Slauson Ave. in Los Angeles. A reception will follow at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, 101 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests that any donations be made in Mason's name to: Nevada Cancer Institute, Continued Research in the Field of Bladder Cancer, 10000 W. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89135.

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