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Posted Feb. 19, 2015 @ 8:39 pm

HESPERIA — Controversial land developer and newspaper publisher Raymond Pryke has died.

After Pryke’s friends, business acquaintances and community leaders contacted the Daily Press about Pryke’s passing, the paper he founded, Valleywide Newspaper group’s Hesperia Resorter, confirmed his death on Thursday in its own published article.

Real estate broker Joseph W. Brady told the Daily Press that Pryke hated corrupt government, and that the publisher was not motivated by money because he had plenty.

“People really loved the guy or hated him,” said Brady on Thursday. “He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I told him once that when he died, it would be the most attended funeral in history.”

During a 2012 interview with the Daily Press, Pryke said people didn’t know who he was since he had been inactive for many years. He also said his next move would be his “Death,” which would be recognized as a “bank holiday.”

Despite receiving initial reports of Pryke’s death last week from friends, business acquaintances and community leaders, his death could not be substantiated through the San Bernardino County Coroner’s office, local mortuaries or online sources. Several messages to Valleywide were not returned. Pryke, who was 91, passed away quietly in his sleep on Feb. 7, according to the Resorter.

Born in England, Pryke was a local land developer who built his fortune in real estate speculation by buying and selling land more than 50 years ago, according to previously published reports.

During almost six decades in the area, many praised Pryke for bringing development to the High Desert. Still, others accused him of using his political influence as a publisher to win favorable deals for his land.

After he gobbled up cheap land in the High Desert during the 1950s, Pryke carefully studied Los Angeles Times Publisher Harry Chandler’s skill at using his newspaper to build his own real estate kingdom.

Pryke bought several local papers as a way to champion the cause of the High Desert while promoting the expansion of economic projects around his property. After he served as a San Bernardino County grand jury foreman, Pryke’s focus changed and he began generating articles about political scandal and corruption.

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