McClatchy's niece, Adair McClatchy, told The Associated Press that her uncle, who went by Ellery, died of natural causes at his home in Pope Valley in Northern California.
The McClatchy family started its newspaper business, which includes the Sacramento Bee and the Miami Herald, in 1857 after Ellery McClatchy's great-grandfather moved to California during the Gold Rush.
Ellery McClatchy, the middle of three brothers who inherited and helped expand the company, served as a board member and officer for 24 years.
"He had a tremendous interest in the company and the family, and he always tried to be a balance between the two," McClatchy's nephew, Kevin McClatchy, told the Sacramento Bee. "He cared a great deal about the company and the role it has played in California and in journalism."
His father, Carlos McClatchy, founded The Fresno Bee and his aunt Eleanor McClatchy led the company for more than 50 years, the Sacramento Bee reported.
McClatchy was also a nationally ranked croquet player for many years, and in 1995 was inducted into the U.S. Croquet Hall of Fame.
McClatchy was a great proponent of croquet, and had a "desire to make croquet available to people of all ages and to see croquet lawns in a great variety of places," according to a profile of McClatchy on the U.S. Croquet Association website.
McClatchy never married or had children, the Bee reported.