Roger Kozberg dies at 77; led renovation of L.A. Memorial Coliseum

Roger Kozberg, an insurance executive who helped guide the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum through a $93-million renovation and became a top proponent for the facility's use as an NFL stadium, has died. He was 77.

Kozberg had neuroendocrine carcinoma, family members said. He died Friday at his home in Beverly Hills.

A Los Angeles native who made the papers at 12 when he turned in a lost wallet containing $50 and eight tickets to USC football games, Kozberg was involved in numerous civic activities but the most public was his passion for the Coliseum.

Kozberg served on the Coliseum Commission from 1993 to 1999 and was its president during an extensive renovation effort triggered by the Northridge earthquake. Bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles after the departure of the Raiders was "a labor of love to him," said former Gov. Pete Wilson, a longtime friend.

"He was right," Wilson, who appointed Kozberg to the commission, said in a statement. "He's still right."

Just what to do with the aging stadium has been a decades-long source of controversy. Long deemed too old and too big for an NFL venue, it is run by USC, which is expected to sign a 98-year lease that will take effect in December.

During his time on the commission, Kozberg rallied local support for a plan that would have retained the 1923 landmark's historic facade but effectively created a new stadium inside.

"Unless you just happen to be in the monument business, you clearly have to use a historic structure in a way that is economically viable," he told The Times in 1996.

However, no football teams were willing to assume the project's $200-million-plus cost and the idea lost steam.

Meanwhile, Kozberg remained a booster.

"My dad pretty much rooted for any team that played at the Coliseum," his daughter, Lindsey Kozberg, said Friday.

Kozberg also was deeply involved in the Coliseum's neighboring cultural institutions in Exposition Park. He served on the boards of both the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

"Roger envisioned all of Exposition Park as a destination for the Los Angeles community and the millions who travel here every year," former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement. "He made himself an expert in finance, construction, governance and programming."

Kozberg sat on the boards of several state agencies. From 1996 to 2000, he was a member of the California Transportation Commission. And from 2005 to 2011, he was on the California State Teachers Retirement Board, the nation's second-largest retirement system, for which he chaired the investment committee.

Born June 8, 1936, he was a junior high school student when he attended a 1948 football game in the Coliseum and found a wallet that belonged to a USC season ticket holder. As a reward, Coliseum officials gave him a seat on the 50-yard line for the traditional dust-up between USC and UCLA. (USC won.)

Kozberg graduated from UCLA in 1958 and spent two years in the Navy before joining his father and brother in the family's insurance business, Edward Lee Kozberg and Sons. He sold the company in 1983, later joining Johnson & Higgins and Marsh Risk and Insurance Services. In 2006, he launched a Los Angeles insurance brokerage for HUB International, where he was managing director.

In 1968, he married Joanne Corday, an arts advocate who later became secretary of California's State and Consumer Services Agency. She also was president of the Music Center in Los Angeles and is on the UC Board of Regents.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Kozberg is survived by his son, Anthony, and brother Martin.

Services are set for Aug. 21 at 3 p.m. at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Ave.

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