Patriarch of Malibu's Founding Family Dies in Hot Air Balloon Accident

The Adamson family was seen as royalty by Malibu residents and leaders

A member of one of Malibu’s founding families died Tuesday in a tragic hot air balloon accident while vacationing with his family in Switzerland.

Grant Adamson, 55, was the patriarch of what residents called Malibu's "Royal Family," a close-knit group who donated the land on which Pepperdine University sits.

"If there were royalty in Malibu, it would be the Adamsons," Malibu Mayor Joan House said.

Adamson died when the air balloon struck an electric power line while trying to land near Montbovon, Switzerland, and plummeted 165 feet. His wife, Terry, also 55, suffered life-threatening injuries, as well as the couple’s two daughters, 24 and 20.

"I could've only imagined that he probably did everything he could to shield his wife and daughters from the fall," said Shelley Ross Saxer, vice dean of Pepperdine University School of Law.

When the Adamsons donated the land overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the private campus in the 1970s, some called it the "Malibu Miracle." Terry is a law professor at the school, and both daughters are Pepperdine students.

"This family owned Malibu," resident Andy Stern said. "They owned the entire city."


Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.

Las Vegas Stabbing Suspect Appeared to Speak to News Photographer in LA Before Attack

Here Are Some of the Major Bills Just Signed Into California Law

The family's now-historic Adamson House is a museum of Malibu history, and the site is a California Historical Landmark, National Historic Site and California State Park.

The oceanfront property built in 1929 tells the story of the family who once lived there and
"whose aura continues to permeate the interior," according to the museum's website. Most of the family’s original furnishings are still housed inside.

After the devastating air balloon crash, all three women were airlifted to an area hospital.

The Adamson daughters successfully underwent surgery and are expected to recover. Their mother is in the hospital and breathing through a ventilator.

More Southern California Stories:

Contact Us