The Times, on his watch, consistently editorialized in favor of gun control, but Chandler himself was a strong advocate of the right to bear arms. In the 1980 speech, he complained that he felt increasingly like an outcast.
Chandler said he wanted to hunt only "the rarest and the biggest and the best," and he killed more than 100 such animals — 10-foot brown bears and polar bears, lions and musk ox, wild antelope and mountain sheep — many of which he had mounted on the walls of a trophy room in the home he shared with his first wife in San Marino.
Nearly a decade after his divorce, he installed the best of his animals in dioramas amid the classic cars and motorcycles in his Oxnard museum. Among them: the mate of the musk ox that nearly killed him in 1990.
The Wide-Open Road Not Taken
Many people wondered if, in retrospect, Chandler's entire tenure at The Times had compromised his passion for freedom — if he would have been happier had he been outside all the time, surfing, hunting, riding and racing, instead of being stuffed into a suit, sitting behind a desk, making speeches and attending meetings.
"He said to me many times that he hadn't wanted to come to the paper in the first place, but he felt an obligation to his family to do it," said Robert F. Erburu, who succeeded Chandler as Times Mirror chairman. "He said he didn't regret the 40 years he spent here. But he said he wished people realized that if he'd been left totally on his own, he might have done something different, so why did they question it when he finally decided he would do something different."
Although Chandler often likened himself to the eagle that serves as the symbol of The Times — "I like to soar, to get above the minutiae and the crowds" — he insisted that as long as he was publisher, "I was living the life I wanted to live. Sure, like any business executive, there were times when I would like to have been away from it all, free of responsibilities. But there is nothing as fascinating as the newspaper business, and I can't imagine any challenge more satisfying than the work we did to improve The Times."
When Chandler left the publisher's office and again when he left the chairman's job, his former colleagues worried that without him, they would no longer be immune to corporate and outside pressures.
"With Otis gone, the heat shield was gone," Johnson said.
Sure enough, both Thomas and Johnson said that after Chandler left, they were "pressured by the sixth floor," where Times Mirror corporate offices were, to fire Day, whom Erburu and many in the family and on the board regarded as too liberal. Both refused. But in 1989, two months after Laventhol replaced Johnson as publisher, Day was removed.
In 1998, Chandler dissolved his last official ties with The Times. He was 70 then, mandatory retirement age for members of the board of directors. His two predecessors as chairman — his father and Murphy — had been invited to remain on the board, in a non-voting capacity, after their 70th birthdays, but Chandler was not extended a similar invitation, and he was clearly hurt by that.
"Would I have wanted to stay, given what was happening at The Times and Times Mirror?" Chandler asked a year after stepping down. "I don't know but I didn't have that choice."
He remained an avid reader of the paper. "Nothing but my kids is more important to me than the Los Angeles Times," he said in 1999.
But he also worried about his legacy, and he increasingly spoke critically, if only in private at first, about his unhappiness with the direction of Times Mirror and the paper under Mark Willes, a former executive at General Mills who had been hired to succeed Erburu as chairman and chief executive in 1995 and also assumed the title of Times publisher when Richard T. Schlosberg III retired unexpectedly in 1997.
Willes had taken charge of the company after a deep and prolonged recession that hit The Times particularly hard; circulation at the paper was declining, and both the stock price and the profits of Times Mirror were falling even faster. Numerous top Times reporters left the paper, many to join the New York Times or to pursue other interests.
Willes made several major cutbacks and refocused the company's efforts on newspapers, saying Times Mirror should concentrate on the business it knew best. Wall Street responded favorably. The stock price tripled during his first three years at the company, and circulation grew modestly.
At a time when newspapers were becoming increasingly vulnerable to competition from the Internet, television, direct mail and other sources for information and advertising, Willes said it was imperative that they market themselves more aggressively and improve journalistically — to make themselves more relevant to readers and more valuable to advertisers.
Chandler acknowledged that it was a difficult time for newspapers, but he disagreed vigorously with Willes' approach. Willes, he said in 1999, was "basically undoing what I and my father and Franklin Murphy all did, dating back to 1958. Going with newspapers only is a flawed strategy, a dangerous philosophy that puts The Times at risk.