Los Angeles Times owner Tronc, which is based in Chicago, is expected to make an announcement that it is selling the newspaper, say people close to the situation, in a move that comes as a surprise that likely means an end to one of the long troubled relationships it has had with the leading news outlet in Southern California.
Patrick Soon-Shiong is buying the paper. He is a major shareholder in Tronc the parent company that now owns the paper and a physician in the Los Angeles area. Soon-Shiong is the CEO and billionaire founder of NantHealth, which is in Culver City, California. He is expected to also buy the San Diego Union-Tribune, which is the sister newspaper of the LA Times.
The last few months have become quite chaotic at the newspaper as rapid turnover in the top ranks has taken place as has a big clash between journalists and management over a proposal for more non-staffers to contribute more content.
Ever since Tribune Co, the predecessor to Tronc, acquired the Times 18 years ago, the paper and parent company have had an ongoing feud about the management of the paper and its direction. As printed newspapers decline during the digital age, the company ordered several cutbacks, prompting many complaints that the Tribune was ruining one of the most accomplished journalist institutions in the nation.
The future of the paper became clouded since bankruptcy was filed by Tribune Co. in 2008. Though the company emerged in 2012 from bankruptcy, the Times has shrunk. News staff at the paper has been cut to only 400 from a peak of over 1,300 during the latter part of the 1990s.
Journalists at the paper voted last month to unionize. Their biggest concern at the moment is the nascent plans of the company to establish a network of contributors that are non-staff to produce content outside the paper’s main newsroom. Some fear it would create a “scab” operation that is designed to undermine their union.
Tronc, which is short for Tribune Online Content, is also the owner of the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, and Baltimore Sun, amongst other papers. Michael W. Ferro is the controlling shareholder. However, Soon-Shiong has contested the control of Ferro. The physician has challenged Ferro on many issues including the spending by Ferro on travel in a private jet and other perks.
Soon-Shiong, who is 64, is estimated to be worth $9 billion. He made his fortune by beginning and then selling biotech businesses and operating several interlocking enterprises. He is a trained surgeon, with no newspaper background expect for being a Tronc investor. Amongst other investments he has, is a small share of the Los Angeles Lakers.