PASSINGS: Peter Graf, Robert Dockson

Peter Graf

Father of tennis great was jailed for tax fraud


Peter Graf, 75, who mentored his daughter, tennis great Steffi Graf, but then went to jail for evading taxes on her earnings, died Nov. 30 at his home in Mannheim, Germany, his family said. German media reported last year that he had pancreatic cancer.

Graf, who sold used cars and had other businesses, placed a sawed-off tennis racket in his daughter's hand before she was 4 years old, rewarding her with ice cream when she was able to sustain long rallies on an improvised tennis court in the family living room. When it became clear that she had a talent for the game, Graf guided — many said over-guided — her early career.

He moved the family close to a tennis club and was her hard-driving coach. Steffi Graf won the German junior 18-and-under championship when she was just 13 and turned pro a year later.

By the time she was 18, she was winning many of the sport's premier tournaments and showing that she had nothing to fear from top players. But the fact that she was "robotic" and nearly emotionless on the court was blamed on her father. He was also known for driving hard bargains on fees for his daughter's tournament appearances.

In interviews, Steffi Graf many times came to his defense — until 1995 when he was arrested and charged with tax evasion. Peter Graf, who had near complete control over his daughter's finances, was said to be illegally transferring millions of dollars' worth of cash out of the country and not filing tax returns. He was found guilty in what one legislator called "the biggest tax scandal ever in Germany involving a private individual."

Graf was sentenced in 1997 to a nearly four-year jail term but was released after about two years for showing "exemplary" behavior. He kept a mostly low profile for the rest of his life.

His relationship with his daughter was strained, but Steffi Graf, who now lives in Las Vegas with her husband Andre Agassi, visited her father shortly before he died, according to German news reports.

Robert Dockson

California Savings & Loan executive and educator

Robert R. Dockson, 96, who headed the California Federal Savings and Loan Assn. during a turbulent period for the S&L industry in the 1980s, died Nov. 26 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood. The cause was a heart attack, his daughter Kimberlee Rollo said.

Dockson, who was known for running Cal Fed with a strong hand, joined the institution in 1969 and was named its chief executive in 1973.

In 1981, when it was the nation's biggest federally chartered mutual savings and loan, Cal Fed was in dire straits along with much of the rest of the industry due to a deep recession. But Dockson refused to take some of the same drastic tactics as other financial institutions.

"Some of the other S&Ls have sold their buildings," he told Forbes magazine that year. "They used all the gimmicks in their bag just to make the quarterly reports look better. Now they're stuck with nothing to do."

Although many S&Ls disappeared as independent entities in that period, Cal Fed held on and in 1983 converted to a stock company. Dockson stepped down as chief executive in 1984 and announced he was retiring as chairman in 1988.

Dockson was born Oct. 6, 1917, in Quincy, Ill. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois in 1939 and a master's degree in 1940 from USC's School of International Relations. He served in the Navy during World War II and after the war earned a PhD in economics at USC.

He joined the faculty of Rutgers University, then worked as an economist for Prudential Insurance and Bank of America. Returning to academia, he became head of the marketing department at USC's School of Commerce in 1953.

Dockson's family said that during his lifetime he served on the boards of more than 30 corporations and charitable organizations.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports