John P. Scripps, scion of the veteran newspaper family who as a youth added to the Scripps Howard empire by investing in a small newspaper that grew to a chain, has died.
Scripps, who was also a noted yachtsman and a breeder and owner of race horses, died Wednesday night of heart failure at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, the company announced Thursday. He was 76, had been ill for three weeks and was recovering from pneumonia.
Scripps added a major chapter to the 200-year family newspaper history when he invested at age 16 in a newspaper that became the foundation of a group of papers in California and Washington state.
Today, the chain comprises seven daily newspapers and a half interest in an eighth with a combined circulation of more than 200,000. It also owns two weekly papers.
Born in Cleveland, Scripps was orphaned at age 5.
He was raised under the influence of his two grandfathers, E. W. Scripps (1851-1926) and Col. Milton A. McRae (1858-1930), founder and general manager, respectively, of the Scripps McRae League.
In 1928, with help from McRae, the teen-age Scripps invested funds from his inheritance in a struggling California daily, the Ventura County Star. Two years later, when McRae died, Scripps left USC, where he was studying for a journalism degree, to take over full-time management of his small company.
The paper, now called the Ventura County Star-Free Press, is the organization's flagship publication with a daily circulation of about 50,000.
In 1986, together with his cousins Charles, Ted, and Robert Scripps, he spearheaded a merger of the John P. Scripps Newspapers division with Scripps Howard, the media firm founded by his paternal grandfather in 1888.
Scripps remained active in the company until his death, serving as chairman of the board of John P. Scripps Newspapers and as a director of Scripps Howard.
He is survived by two sons, two daughters, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.