David Copley, the heir to a prominent former publishing company, died Tuesday after having an apparent heart attack while driving, a family friend said.
Copley's car crashed into a parked car on Eads Avenue and Silverado Street at about 6:15 p.m., according to the San Diego Police Department.
Copley, who is one of San Diego's wealthiest and most well-known residents, died later in the hospital as a result of the apparent and sudden heart attack, according to family friend Robert Singer, who made an announcement outside of the hospital Tuesday night.
"David was a great San Diegan and a beloved citizen of the world," Singer said. "He was a very kind, gentle individual."
A native San Diegan, Copley was the heir and owner of the now-defunct Copley Press, which published the San Diego Union-Tribune and other newspapers before dissolving. Copley sold the newspaper in 2009 to private equity firm Platinum Equity.
Many have described his passing as the "end of an era," as the Copley family was highly influential in San Diego, and the 60-year-old philanthropist had no children.
Prior to the sale, the Copley family oversaw the paper for more than 80 years. Ira Copley, an Illinois businessman, bought The San Diego Union in 1928 and was publisher until 1947. His son, James Copley, took over until 1973 and James Copley's wife, Helen, was publisher until in 2001. She then passed the company onto David.
However, Copley made his mark in San Diego as a generous donor to the arts, not as a newspaper publisher. He contributed to important fixtures in San Diego, such as the central library, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Copley Symphony Hall and the Copley Family YMCA in City Heights.
“David continued the generosity of his mother and they were involved in a great number of endeavors the cardiac rehab center, many of the fine arts, many things he would never put his name on but gave to generously, not only here in San Diego but around the world,” said Singer, who has known Copley since the late 60s.
"He had a sense of respect for the people who reported to him, and had confidence in us. And that, in turn, gave us confidence and ability to do our jobs better, because we knew we had a sage adviser," said Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Director Hugh Davies.
When police responded to the scene, they found Copley alone in his car and unresponsive. Officers broke the window and pulled him out of the car. He was not breathing and officers performed CPR until medics arrived.
Medics transported him to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, where they continued to perform CPR on him. They were not able to resuscitate him and he was pronounced dead in the hospital.
Copley had just left a board meeting for the Museum of Contemporary Arts. Singer said he wasn't feeling well and left the meeting early.
"He wasn't going very far or fast, and he crashed," Singer said.
In 1991, he suffered a mild heart attack and in 2005 underwent heart transplant surgery. Singer said he believed these underlying heart problems prevented his full resuscitation Tuesday.
"It's so tragic and sad. Everybody was shocked, you know? We all were," said Bob Witty, a former Copley News Service director. "But I suppose it's nice that his last day was spent somewhere that he loved -- at the Museum of Contemporary Art."