“The Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Times is expected to announce it is selling the newspaper, according to people familiar with the company’s plans, in a surprise move that probably spells the end of its long-troubled relationship with Southern California’s leading news outlet,” The Washington Post reports.
“The buyer is Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Los Angeles-area physician and a major shareholder of the paper’s current parent company, Tronc, according to the people involved in the deal, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to talk,” the story reports. “Soon-Shiong is the billionaire founder and chief executive of NantHealth, based in Culver City. He will also buy its sister newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune.”
The Post reports that recent months have been turbulent at the Times, “with rapid turnover in the paper’s top ranks and a major clash between management and journalists over a proposal to have more non-staffers contributing more news content.
“Ever since Tronc’s forerunner company, Tribune Co., acquired the Times in 2000, the newspaper and its parent company have engaged in a cross-country feud about the paper’s management and direction. As newspapers have declined in the digital age, the company has ordered round after round of cutbacks, prompting complaints that Tribune was decimating one of the nation’s most accomplished journalistic institutions.”
The report notes that the paper’s news staff has been pared down to about 400, from a peak of more than 1,300 in the late 1990s.
“Soon-Shiong, 64, made his fortune — estimated at around $9 billion by Bloomberg — by starting and selling biotech companies and by operating an empire of interlocking enterprises,” The Post reports. “A surgeon by training, he has no background in newspapers, except as an investor in Tronc. Among his investments is a small stake in the Los Angeles Lakers.”