PASSINGS: Lewis Katz, Bert A. Betts

PASSINGS: Lewis Katz, Bert A. Betts
Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz, shown last week in Philadelphia, was among seven people killed Saturday night in a fiery plane crash in Massachusetts, the newspaper's editor said Sunday. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Lewis Katz, 72, a self-made man who built his fortune in New York parking lots, billboards and cable TV, and went on to buy the NBA's New Jersey Nets, NHL's New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, died Saturday night in a Massachusetts plane crash that claimed six other lives.

Katz grew up in working-class Camden, N.J., and worked as a lawyer before earning hundreds of millions of dollars investing in the Kinney Parking Systems empire and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network in New York. He went on to become a major philanthropist in the Philadelphia region.


With Raymond Chambers, former chairman of Wesray Capital Corp. and now a special United Nations envoy, Katz led a group of New Jersey real estate developers that bought the Nets basketball team in 1998. Through a trust formed by Katz, the franchise's profits went to help inner-city schools in Camden and elsewhere in New Jersey.

Katz and Chambers joined forces with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to form YankeeNets, a holding company, and then the regional sports television network YES. In 2000, an affiliate of YankeeNets created by Katz and Chambers, Puck Holdings, bought the Devils hockey team.

Katz and Chambers presided over the Nets during a successful run that included reaching the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. YankeeNets sold the team in 2004 to Bruce Ratner, who moved them to their current home in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Katz and another business partner, Harold H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, won control of Philadelphia's Inquirer, an illustrious U.S. newspaper that has suffered through management turmoil in recent years, at a May 27 auction that valued the company at $88 million. The transaction will proceed with Katz's son Drew joining the new company's board, Lenfest said.

Born Jan. 11, 1942, Katz received a bachelor's degree in biology from Temple University in 1963. He spent a year working for journalist Drew Pearson before entering Dickinson School of Law, which today is part of Penn State University.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash of the Gulfstream IV jet at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass. The twin-engine plane never lifted off during its attempted takeoff, a witness told investigators.

Bert A. Betts

California state treasurer under Pat Brown

Bert A. Betts, 90, a two-term California state treasurer under Gov. Pat Brown, died Wednesday in Sacramento. No cause was given.

Betts, a Democrat who was elected in 1958, left office after losing a reelection bid in 1966. He was defeated by Ivy Baker Priest, a Republican who had been treasurer of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

Born Aug. 16, 1923, in San Diego, Betts became a certified public accountant after serving as an Army pilot in World War II. He flew 30 missions over Europe and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Active in San Diego County politics but little known at the state level, he was a surprised victor in 1958. As treasurer, he encouraged competitive bidding in selling state bonds and posted a solid track record investing the state's money, said his son, Bruce Betts.

"He was very driven to do the right thing and try to make things better," Bruce Betts said. "He was very organized and efficient in trying to do that."

After leaving office, Betts founded a bond consulting company based in Sacramento. He unsuccessfully sought the state controller's job in 1974.


Times staff and wire reports