America's Richest and Most Controversial Doctor Is Buying the 'Los Angeles Times'

Bryan Bedder  Getty Images for Berggruen Institute
Patrick Soon-Shiong

Bryan Bedder Getty Images for Berggruen Institute Patrick Soon-Shiong

The San Diego Union-Tribune announced Wednesday biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has agreed to purchase their newspaper and Los Angeles Times parent company Tronc.

"We are pleased to transition leadership of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to local ownership, and we are certain that the journalistic excellence in Southern California will continue long into the future", said Justin Dearborn, CEO of Tronc.

Tronc does not break out what percent of its $1.4 billion in annual revenues include the Times and Union-Tribune newspapers, but Edmonds estimates that they make up about 35 percent of the company's revenues. Journalists voted last month to unionize for the first time in the paper's 136-year history.

Soon-Shiong inspires some strong emotions among the investor and life sciences crowd. It owns 10 US newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News. He is now the executive editor at The New York Times.

Soon-Shiong has challenged majority Tronc share owner Michael Ferro on several issues, according to The Washington Post, including Ferro's use of a private jet and other executive perks. He's the latest billionaire to buy a major newspaper, following in the footsteps of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post in 2013. An investigation past year by Politico found "found that the majority of [Soon-Shiong's NantHealth Foundation's expenditures] flow to businesses and not-for-profits controlled by Soon-Shiong himself, and the majority of its grants have gone to entities that have business deals with his for-profit firms".

The editor of the Los Angeles Times, John Carroll, who led the paper to 13 Pulitzer Prizes, resigned under heavy pressure to cut staff.

The deal came together over the past five days and took many observers by surprise, according to The Times.

"I am concerned there are other agendas, independent of the newspaper's needs or the fiduciary obligations to the viability of the organization", he said at the time.

Last Monday, in an attempt to counter swelling mistrust in the newsroom, Tronc installed Mr Jim Kirk, a veteran journalist and former editor and publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, as the paper's editor-in-chief. He had briefly served in the job on an interim basis during a management overhaul from August until November, when D'Vorkin joined the paper.

Those hires sparked fears that the business side would wield undue influence in editorial matters.

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