Thank you for your donation in memory of James J. Cotter.
On September 13, 2014, James Joseph Cotter passed away at the age of 76, surrounded by his loving family, after a heroic battle with prostate cancer. He was born on February 10, 1938, in the Bronx section of New York City to James Joseph and Marie Wynne Cotter. In 1955, he graduated from New York City’s Xavier High School and then attended Georgetown University and Georgetown University Law Center. After graduation, he studied tax law at New York University.
Mr. Cotter was a prominent and innovative businessman and known as one of the early activist shareholders. He was the driving force behind the often sited Technicolor decision in Delaware, a case that set out many of the standards for director conduct. He backed the management of Stater Bros. Markets, a California supermarket chain, in an early leveraged buy-out that lead to his ownership of half that company. He was instrumental in saving what was then known as the Fidelity Federal Bank.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Cotter gained control of the company that owned the Reading Railroad (of Monopoly gameboard fame), one of the oldest companies in America which traced its roots back to the mid-1830s. Over the next thirty years, as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Reading International, Inc. (NASDAQ: RDI), Mr. Cotter oversaw the Company’s growth to become one the world’s leading theatrical exhibition companies and growing real estate company, with cinema, live theater and real estate assets in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The Angelika Film Centers, the Union Square Theater building in New York City and Reading Cinemas in Australia and New Zealand (one of the largest exhibitors in each of those countries) are among the assets now controlled by Reading.
Mr. Cotter started his involvement in the movie exhibition and real estate industries in 1969 when he worked for William Forman, the founder of Pacific Theaters, which, at the time, was a chain of drive-in movie theaters. Mr. Cotter continued to work for Pacific, its affiliates and the Forman family for over 40 years.
Mr. Cotter became a personal investor in California agricultural businesses in the 1970s. He owned Cecelia Packing Corporation and formed JJ Cotter Orchards. Mr. Cotter’s agricultural business currently controls approximately 2,000 acres of orange groves in the San Joaquin Valley. Cecelia Packing Corporation is considered amongst the finest citrus companies in the industry.
Outside of his love for business, Jim was an avid handball player, which he began playing at age 23. Shortly before his passing, Jim continued to play handball several times per week. Much of his life revolved around his handball games played at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, New York Athletic Club and University Athletic Club, at each of which he was a devoted member.
Jim is survived by Mary Ellen Cotter and their three children, Ellen Marie Cotter, Ann Margaret Cotter and James Joseph Cotter, their five grandchildren, Duffy, Margot, Sophia, Brooke, James, his brother, Gerard W. Cotter, and his daughter-in-law, Gina Taylor.