Billionaire Doctor Finalizes Takeover of LA Times

FILE – In this Jan. 10, 2017, file photo, pharmaceuticals billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong waves as he arrives in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump. It was announced Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, that the Los Angeles Times is being sold to Soon-Shiong, a local billionaire, for $500 million, ending its strained tenure under the owner of the Chicago Tribune. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles Times will have a new owner starting on Monday as biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong finalizes his $500 million purchase, and the newspaper will start a new chapter this summer by moving out of its downtown headquarters.

Soon-Shiong, 65, will also acquire the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Spanish-language newspaper Hoy and some other community newspapers in the deal.

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times announced the finish line was in sight and Soon-Shiong is expected to wire the money Monday to finalize the sale from the Chicago-based publisher Tronc.

Soon-Shiong, a former surgeon who was born in South Africa to Chinese immigrants, made his fortune in the biotech industry. His investment firm Nant Capital is Tronc’s second-largest shareholder.

In a full-page advertisement to readers in Sunday’s edition of the Times, Soon-Shiong, said, “I believe that fake news is the cancer of our times and social media the vehicles for metastasis. Institutions like The Times and the Union-Tribune are more vital than ever.”

He added, “I grew up believing the best newspapers are the voice of the people. None of my personal success has changed that belief.”

Times staffers took to social media over the weekend with champagne glasses raised for the sale and the upcoming move from the downtown headquarters.

The deal marks the end of a volatile era for the Times as the newspaper breaks away from Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing.

The Times newsroom has experienced a rollercoaster 2018 so far. Former editor Lewis D’Vorkin, who feuded with staff, was only at the paper for three months, while former publisher Ross Levinsohn was hired after several editors were fired last year.

Earlier this year, the company’s largest shareholder and former Tronc board chairman, Michael Ferro, was paid $15 million under a consulting agreement as he left amid harassment allegations.

Frustrated editorial staff called to form a union for more diversity in newsrooms, better pay and a better footing in an industry facing staffing cuts.

Union organizers pointed to lavish executive salaries and a series of memos sent to the newsroom from Tronc that discouraged the unionization efforts. In a landslide vote last December, editorial employees formed the first union at the newspaper in its 136-year history.

More recently, Times management accused the union of not bargaining in good faith over contract negotiations. Namely, management wanted more information about how the union organizers formulated its report on wage gaps at the newspaper.

Union representatives called this a stall tactic to deflect the pay inequity issue from Tronc. The union, which represents 400 employees, will now have to bargain under Soon-Shiong’s ownership.

The newspaper once enjoyed a newsroom of 1,200 employees with 25 foreign bureaus across the world. Now, the approximately 800 staffers at the Times’ downtown headquarters will relocate at the end of July to a new location near Los Angeles International Airport.

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