2012-11-29 / Front Page

Cause of Soteras death being investigated

By Sylvie Belmond

No cause of death has been determined yet for Alex Soteras, the former president of the Agoura/Oak Park/ Conejo Valley/Calabasas Chamber of Commerce who was found dead at his home in the exclusive Calabasas Oaks neighborhood last Saturday.

Sgt. Mark Bock of the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department said a caretaker for Soteras’ elderly father found the Calabasas businessman unresponsive in his bed shortly after 2 p.m. on Nov. 24.

Sources say the 51-year-old had been in ill health. According to Bock, there was no evidence of foul play at the scene. The county coroner’s office could not be reached for comment.

Soteras’ sudden death stunned the community.

“It was really a shock. Very sad and unexpected,” said Mike Paule, an Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council member and fellow Chamber member who had known Soteras for 10 years.

“He’s always been very active and supportive of the community and of me and my efforts in the community. It’s very sad to hear of his passing,” Paule said.

Soteras was the oldest of three children of Solon and Patricia Soteras. His mother, an actress and executive director of the Agoura Chamber of Commerce, died in 2006 at age 75.

A 1984 graduate of Pepperdine University, Soteras owned a mortgage and rental property business and served as director of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley.

He joined the Agoura Chamber in 1989 and was elected president in 2001. He and his mother were credited for reviving the local Chamber, but in the wake of a bevy of legal battles resulting from charges of impropriety brought against him by tenants and other business associates—one charge stated he had failed to disclose a pending foreclosure and withheld rental desposit money—Soteras stepped aside from his leadership post at the Agoura Chamber.

Records show that since 1995, Soteras had been named in 18 small claims, breach of contract and wrongful eviction cases in Ventura County Superior Court.

Last July, the City of Calabasas cut ties with the Agoura/Oak Park/ Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce charging that the rival group had been “trading” on the city’s name and soliciting business membership under false pretenses. The City Council approved a resolution officially declaring the Calabasas Chamber of Commerce— not the Alex Soteras-led Chamber—as the sole business group representing the city.

The City of Agoura Hills distanced itself from Soteras in 2010 when it announced it was joining the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, the official representative for Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.

“Alex was a very misunderstood person in our area. But he had a very big heart and was extremely generous and he only meant well,” said Barry Steinhardt, a member of the Las Virgenes Water District board of directors.

Thousand Oaks businessman Louis Masry, also a former president of the Agoura Chamber, said leaders will meet to decide the organization’s future. Soteras had been the group’s de facto leader for more than a decade.

“It’s a sad day for the Chamber,” Masry said.

Local auto dealer Steve Lapin is the Chamber’s current president.

Paule said Soteras had been supportive of the business community and “tried to do what’s best.”

In recent years, Soteras became the primary caretaker for his elderly father, a former banker and community activist who was a trustee of the California State Teachers Retirement System and served as trustee of the Los Angeles County Board of Investments.

In July, Soteras was detained by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for driving under the infl uence. According to sources, he had been battling ongoing health problems and was under a doctor’s care. But he remained active in the community.

In the November election Soteras contributed $13,000 to Measure L in support of term limits for the Thousand Oaks City Council. The measure passed Nov. 6.

Al Adam, an Agoura Chamber member who was elected to the Thousand Oaks City Council in the election, said Soteras “played the part of a community matchmaker.”

Soteras is survived by his father, Sol, and a sister, Nicole. Funeral arrangements have not been not announced.

John Loesing contributed to this story.

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