Arco Founder Dies at Age 90

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Arco Founder Dies at Age 90

12/07/2007
LA PALMA, Calif. -- Arco founder Robert O. Anderson, a legendary wildcatter and philanthropist who used his clout to support an array of major cultural organizations, died Sunday at his Roswell, N.M., home. He was 90, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Anderson's death was confirmed by Amy Wohlert, interim dean of the University of New Mexico's Anderson School of Management, which was named after the former Arco chairman and longtime New Mexico resident. Wohlert said Anderson had a stroke recently, but she did not know the cause of death, the newspaper said.

Anderson created Arco through a 1966 merger of the Atlantic and Richfield oil companies and was its chairman for two decades. He led Arco's move from New York to Los Angeles in 1972, when it opened the landmark Arco Plaza. The company's twin 52-story towers launched a building boom that transformed the area, the report stated.

Anderson, who often wore a vintage Stetson and a bow tie, also guided Arco to play an important civic and philanthropic role in the city. The company donated $3 million toward the cost of a new building for modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The building, which opened in 1986, is named for Anderson.

A lifetime trustee of the museum, as well as of Caltech, Anderson was among a small group of local business leaders who were crucial to the growth of the arts in L.A.

"Like Franklin Murphy, Ed Carter and Howard Ahmanson, Robert O. Anderson ensured that his corporation played an active role in the cultural institutions of Los Angeles," Melody Kanschat, LACMA president, told the LA Times.

Anderson -- born in 1917 in Chicago and the son of a banker who knew a number of oil entrepreneurs and lent them money -- led Arco for 17 years as a strategic thinker in a formidable management team. He broke the mold for oil executives by promoting mass transit and other environmental concerns, the newspaper reported.

"He was a unique man," recalled Albert Greenstein, Arco's longtime spokesman.

Anderson is survived by his wife, Barbara, and their seven children and grandchildren.