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John Hotchkis, L.A. benefactor whose family homesteaded historic ranch land, dies at 86

John Hotchkis, L.A. benefactor whose family homesteaded historic ranch land, dies at 86
John Finlay Hotchkis (Courtesy Joan Hotchkis)

John Finlay Hotchkis, a prominent Los Angeles benefactor and fourth-generation Californian whose family homesteaded the historic Rancho Los Alamitos, has died.

Hotchkis, who died Dec. 14, had a half-century-long association with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, twice served on the UC Board of Regents and was a board member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

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His ancestors acquired the sprawling ranch land in what’s now Long Beach as part of a Spanish land trust in the 1870s, and ultimately gave the rancho to the city — along with the original adobe ranch house and barns — as a museum and educational center.

Hotchkis continued the family’s support of the rancho and was a benefactor to causes including Planned Parenthood and Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles and charitable efforts such as the Painted Turtle, a summer camp for children with serious medical conditions.

Active in civic and cultural groups through his life, Hotchkis also had an adventuresome side.

A fan of auto racing, he formed his own International Motor Sports Assn. team and raced at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring — all shrines of sports car racing.

Hotchkis and a group of friends also joined the St. Moritz Toboganning Club and competed as “Team LA’” in the famed Cresta Run in Switzerland for more than a decade.

A businessman, Hotchkis was the cofounder of Trust Company of the West, Hotchkis and Wiley. The firm was later sold to Merrill Lynch.

When he joined the L.A. Philharmonic, he assumed a board seat that had long been held by his mother — Katharine Bixby. He was chairman of the board when Disney Hall opened in 2003.

Hotchkis is survived by his wife, Joan; four children, John Jr., Sarah, Mark and Carey; and eight grandchildren. His first wife, Carolyn, died in 1983.

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