A. Carl Kotchian, at 94; led Lockheed in bribery scandal

By Peter Pae
Los Angeles Times / December 22, 2008
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LOS ANGELES - A. Carl Kotchian, the former president of Lockheed Aircraft Corp. whose admission of paying millions of dollars in bribes to foreign government officials in the 1970s led to the imprisonment of Japan's prime minister and political upheaval in several countries, has died. He was 94.

Mr. Kotchian, who had been ill with ailments related to aging, died Dec. 14 at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, Calif., said his son, Robert Kotchian.

A key figure in what became one of the biggest bribery scandals ever, Mr. Kotchian testified before a Senate committee in 1976, and his statements later contributed to sweeping reforms and passage of US laws against Americans and US companies paying off foreign government officials.

His admission had dramatic political reverberations overseas. It led to the downfall of Japan's ruling government, discredited the Dutch monarchy, and set off official inquiries in Colombia, Turkey, Italy, West Germany, and Saudi Arabia.

The Senate probe eventually revealed that payoffs, bribes, and kickbacks had been part of doing business overseas for American companies for decades. While Lockheed and Mr. Kotchian received the brunt of the attention, more than 400 US companies eventually admitted to paying foreign officials more than $700 million (more than $2.5 billion today).

In a memoir published only in Japan, Mr. Kotchian said Lockheed was a scapegoat and that the payoffs - common throughout the 1960s and early 1970s - were part of the way the "game" was played overseas. He maintained that no payoffs were made to American officials and no American laws were violated.

"If we were back in those times, I'd do it again," Mr. Kotchian said in an interview with the Associated Press in 1978. "In present times, with the change in attitude and standards that are being applied now, I don't think that I would."

The scandal overshadowed a notable aviation career that spanned 35 years and paralleled Lockheed's rise to become one of the biggest aerospace companies in the world. Mr. Kotchian was president of Lockheed before it merged with Martin Marietta Corp.

"He was a widely admired leader, a dynamic individual who greatly contributed to the growth of Lockheed over a very long period of time," said Sherman N. Mullin, former president of Lockheed's "Skunk Works" advanced development subsidiary.

Archibald Carl Kotchian was born in Kermit, N.D., but grew up in Long Beach, Calif. He graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor's degree and a master's in business administration. His family said the tall, blue-eyed, gregarious Mr. Kotchian never liked "Archibald" and preferred Carl or A.C.

A certified public accountant, Mr. Kotchian briefly worked for Price Waterhouse & Co. in Los Angeles before joining Vega Airplane Co., a subsidiary of Lockheed Aircraft Co., in 1941.

He rose through the ranks at Lockheed and oversaw the upsurge in World War II aircraft production in Burbank, Calif., and then later started up a new division in Marietta, Ga., that later became the production site for the C-130 cargo plane and the F-22 fighter jet.

Mr. Kotchian was named president of the company in 1967 and until 1976 - when forced to resign amid the bribery scandal - helped oversee development of several notable aircraft, including the C-5 Galaxy military transport, the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and the L-1011 TriStar passenger jet.

It would be the L-1011, and bribes involving the costly aircraft, that would spell the end of Mr. Kotchian's aerospace career.

Mr. Kotchian's son said Friday that he never sensed that his father had any regrets.

"He felt he did the right thing for the good of the company," Kotchian said.

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