Media Company Tronc Selling LA Times To Billionaire Doctor


U.S. media and publishing company Tronc has announced that it is set to sell The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and other titles under the California News Group to Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong's private investment firm Nant Capital.

Nant Capital will assume $90 million in pension liabilities in the deal, expected to close in the late first quarter or early second quarter of 2018.

Among those reporting the possible sale is the Los Angeles Times newsroom itself, which published a story Tuesday afternoon on a sale to Patrick Soon-Shiong, 64, the billionaire founder and chief executive of Culver City-based health care marketing and developing company NantHealth.

"I'd say this is good news, but with a caveat", said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor and author of a forthcoming book on the efforts of Bezos and Henry to remake American newspapers.

If approved, the sale would come about a week after veteran Chicago journalist Jim Kirk was named editor in chief to replace Lewis D'Vorkin, whose short tenure was marked by clashes with staff.

The deal coincides with an unrelated announcement of the formation of Tronc Interactive, a new division to be focused on business.

"Given the huge challenges still faced by news publishing in the age of Google/Facebook ad duopoly and still-onrushing digital disruption, even a billionaire has his work cut out for him", Doctor said.

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"It's still very big and has a great franchise", Edmonds said.

Soon-Shiong purchased $70.5 million in Tronc shares in 2016, according to the LA Times, and is the second-largest shareholder after Michael Ferro.

A basketball fanatic, Soon-Shiong also owns a minority interest in the Los Angeles Lakers.

In an interview with the Times past year, Soon-Shiong acknowledged that as a major stockholder, he was unhappy with the way the Los Angeles Times was being run and felt a need to ensure its survival.

In an interview with The New York Times at the time of his initial investment, Mr Soon-Shiong, who grew up in apartheid South Africa, said he considered newspapers a "public trust" and wanted to preserve them.

And the day before the union vote was announced, NPR revealed that Times publisher Ross Levinsohn, whom Tronc had hired in August to run the paper, had been accused of sexual misconduct multiple times at previous jobs.

If the sale goes through, it would cap a chaotic stretch in recent months that's seen departures in the top ranks at the Times, along with a bitter fight between management and journalists over unionization and a proposal to increase contributions from freelancers.