Donald S. Maxwell dies at 83; media executive helped expand The Times

Donald S. Maxwell, a retired financial executive who helped guide the Los Angeles Times and its former parent company, Times Mirror, through periods of unprecedented expansion, died Wednesday at his home in La Habra Heights. He was 83 and had pancreatic cancer, family members said.

Maxwell joined The Times as controller in 1969 and later became the newspaper's vice president of finance. In 1982, he was named a vice president of Times Mirror, where he had a succession of financial responsibilities.

Former colleagues on Wednesday praised him for his keen analytic abilities and level-headedness under pressure.

"He had a style that was quite different from that of many chief financial officers," said Tom Johnson, the Times' president and later its publisher from 1977 to 1989. "He had the ability to instill change — including, when it was needed, financial discipline — without ever being mean-spirited."

"He was a favorite of Otis Chandler and all of us who worked with him," Johnson said, referring to the late Times publisher who catapulted his family's provincial paper into the forefront of American journalism.

Born in Los Angeles on May 30, 1930, Donald Stanley Maxwell attended Long Beach City College from 1948 to 1950 and served in the Army during the Korean War.

In 1956, he received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Woodbury College, which was then located in downtown Los Angeles.

He later made the school, now Woodbury University, the focus of his philanthropic efforts, his son Brad Maxwell said.

The elder Maxwell helped manage financial aspects of Woodbury's 1987 move to Burbank and championed a $250,000 donation from Times Mirror for the campus library, his son said.

At The Times, Maxwell worked on major initiatives like construction of the newspaper's plant in the San Fernando Valley, expansion of its Orange County operations and the purchase of high-tech printing presses.

He also helped analyze finances at newly acquired Times Mirror properties, including the Denver Post and the Dallas Times Herald, Johnson said.

Times Mirror was purchased by the Tribune Co., the Times' current owner, in 2000.

Maxwell retired in 1995. For years, he bred Arabian horses from the blood line of Khemosabi, a stallion famous among breeders.

In addition to Martha, his wife of 63 years, he is survived by daughters Sylvia Stewart, Amy Kimes and Cindy Maxwell; sons Brad, Bruce, Walter and Wes Maxwell; 15 grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.

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