LOS ANGELES (AP) — Al Franken, who promoted track and field, golf and tennis on the West Coast during a long career in sports, died Wednesday. He was 96.
He died at his home in the Westwood section of Los Angeles from acute myeloid leukemia that was discovered recently, according to his son Don.
Franken co-founded the Los Angeles Invitational track and field meet held at the old Los Angeles Sports Arena in 1960. It was held indoors in February and televised nationally, serving as an elite-level stop between the Millrose Games in New York and the U.S. indoor national championships. It was known as the Sunkist Invitational until 1995 because of its sponsor Sunkist Growers. It continued until 2003, when it was canceled for lack of sponsorship.
Franken hustled to recruit stars and sponsors. He stirred up interest by offering $500,000 to any athlete who broke a world record.
The meet also featured top high school runners. More than 100 Olympic gold medalists competed during its existence.
Franken also coordinated indoor meets in San Francisco and San Diego. He helped develop the Kinney High School Cross Country Championships into a major national meet.
He was the Los Angeles Lakers’ first public relations director when the team moved west from Minneapolis.
Franken handled PR for the Los Angeles Open golf tournament for 22 years, as well as assignments for the men’s and women’s pro tennis tours.
He founded Franken Enterprises in 1952 and World Class Sports in 1982 to promote and market track and field.
Franken graduated from UCLA, where he was sports editor of the Daily Bruin newspaper. He later worked as a sports writer at the Los Angeles Mirror.
Besides his son, he is survived by daughter Jill Franken. He is not related to the former U.S. senator from Minnesota who shares his name.