The Los Angeles Times has been sold and for the first time in nearly two decades, a local Angelino is the owner. Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the newspaper from its Chicago-based parent company, Tronc. It is hoped that Soon-Shiong's ownership will end what has been a very turbulent recent past for the 136-year-old newspaper. As part of the purchase, Soon-Shiong will also own the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Spanish language newspaper Hoy. Soon-Shiong made the $500 million purchase through his investment firm Nant Capital. The deal includes the assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities. Oh, and by the way, Dr. Soon-Shiong paid CASH for the Los Angeles Times.
The deal is expected to close in March or April. The LA Times has been going through an incredibly rough patch. The paper has had three editors in six months, its publisher was placed on unpaid leave due to a sexual harassment investigation, and the newsroom employees banded together and voted to unionize.
The deal took many people by surprise as it came together very quickly. Tronc had fended off previous bidders who wanted to either buy the whole company or just the two southern California newspapers. Right up until the day of sale, Tronc insisted that the Los Angeles Times was key to the company due to being in the middle of Hollywood, near major tech industry hubs, and on the Pacific Rim. Still, Tronc's chairman Michael Ferro had a number in mind that he'd be willing to sell the newspaper before and that was $500 million. If someone wanted to pay half a billion dollars, he figured it was the time to sell. And that is when Patrick Soon-Shiong came calling.
Patrick Soon-Shiong was born in South Africa in 1952. He graduated high school at 16, and got his medical degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg at the age of 23. He then earned a Master of Science from the University of British Columbia before moving to Los Angeles for surgical training. Soon-Shiong, who now holds over 50 patents, was a member of the UCLA Medical School faculty from 1983 to 1991.
Soon-Shiong left UCLA in 1991 and founded a biotechnology company called Abraxis BioScience. Under Patrick's leadership, the company eventually developed a revolutionary drug used in the treatment of breast, lung and pancreatic cancers. The drug, Abraxane, was approved by the FDA in 2005 for the treatment of breast cancer when chemotherapy was not working. By 2009, Abraxane had generated $315 million in revenue per year. In 2010 Abraxis BioScience, which was solely owned by Soon-Shiong, was acquired for $3 billion in cash and stock. Soon-Shiong then founded NantWorks in September 2011. Nantworks's health division, NantHealth, is on a mission to provide cloud-based data to the healthcare industry. One of the company's super computers is now able to analyze and transfer the genetic data from a tumor in under a minute. In 2010 Soon-Shiong bought Magic Johnson's stake in the Lakers, making him the largest owner of the NBA team outside of the Buss family.
The $500 million sale is a steep price to pay for a few struggling media properties. Traditional newspapers and publications have been losing readers and ad revenue in droves. Advertisers are focusing their media buys on Facebook, Google, and other sites rather than newspapers and magazines.
Soon-Shiong becomes the latest billionaire to buy a newspaper. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post and Red Sox owner John Henry bought the Boston Globe in 2013. In 2014, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor bought the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal.