SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Pharmaceutical mogul Patrick Soon-Shiong registered a for-profit California corporation for the purpose of "data mining" during the same period that he was offering through a charity to host data for a court IT project that has already cost California a half-billion dollars.
Earlier this fall, leaders of California courts, who are often criticized over their stewardship of public monies, characterized the mogul's offer in effusive terms as a "game changer." Soon-Shiong was variously described as "a strategic partner," an "angel in the wings" and a "white knight."
But those views are not universally shared.
"Those in control are casting about in a frantic attempt to save this failed project, rather than simply cutting the taxpayer's losses," said Chuck Horan, a retired Los Angeles judge and member of a group of judges critical of the current leadership of California's courts.
An appellate justice who lauded the deal, Terence Bruiniers, said that while the offer was made through one of Soon-Shiong's charities, the multi-billionaire was also ready to help the courts through his business entities.
Bruiniers conceded through his comments that secret negotiations had been under way with Soon-Shiong for at least a year, a period that encompasses the February 10th date when the billionaire set up Nantworks, LLC.
The category for the company, listed with California's Department of Corporations, is "data mining technology." Soon-Shiong said at the time that he was starting a "digital revolution," and the company would focus "on areas where advances in technology are most severely needed, such as healthcare and scientific research, education and even within our justice system."
Man of Fortune
Patrick Soon-Shiong is a South African of Chinese descent. He made enormous amounts of money through the sale of a drug for women with breast cancer, called Abraxane, which was criticized for its high cost and described in a cancer research journal as "old wine in a new bottle."
He is also one of the first Americans to sign the Giving Pledge, along with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, promising to give away half of his estimated $7 billion fortune. While press articles call attention to his philanthropic pursuits, the bio-tech billionaire is generally described as an "investor" or "entrepreneur."
The ownership of his Nantworks company is a convoluted affair. An earlier company called Nantworks LLC was formed in 2007 and then abandoned. The very similar Nantworks, LLC, with the comma added, was then formed in February.
That company is in turn tied to a Delaware-registered company, Nant Holdings IP, LLC., according to the website corporationwiki.com. Those two entities are then connected to a spider's web of related companies.
A day after Nantworks was formed, Soon-Shiong set up on Feb. 11 another charity, in addition to his family foundation, called the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Advanced Health. The institute then began setting up data centers and a supercomputer in Phoenix.
By July, the charity had made a big technology acquisition.
It bought National Lambda Rail, consisting of 12,000 miles of fiber optic cable used by NASA, government laboratories and research institutions to send scientific data across the country at speeds of up to 100 giga-bytes per second.