Tronc said Wednesday it has struck a deal to sell the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and other titles in the California News Group to billionaire biotech investor Patrick Soon-Shiong. The agreement with Soon-Shiong, a major shareholder in Tronc and chief executive of NantHealth, includes $500 million in cash plus the assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities.
The company also announced that Ross Levinsohn has been reinstated as LA Times CEO, after he agreed to take an unpaid leave of absence last month following disclosure of sexual harassment allegations against him while he worked at other companies. The Times, acquired by Tronc’s predecessor Tribune Co. in 2000, has undergone several management changes and rounds of layoffs, reflecting a struggle by newspapers in general to adapt to digital media.
Here’s the official spin from the Los Angeles Times:
Soon-Shiong, one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest residents and a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, became the latest billionaire to throw a lifeline to a major newspaper. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013. That same year, Red Sox owner John Henry scooped up the Boston Globe and, in 2014, Minnesota billionaire and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor bought the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The nearly $500-million price tag represented a premium for the struggling media properties. Traditional publications have fallen out of favor on Wall Street amid plummeting print advertising revenue. Marketers have been steering their ad dollars to Facebook, Google, Snapchat and other sites and away from magazines and newspapers. At the same time, Tronc and other publishing companies have struggled to boost revenue from the readers they attract online.
— Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong (@DrPatSoonShiong) November 20, 2016
How the world’s richest doctor gave away millions — then steered the cash back to his company [ note that Soon-Shiong was appointed by Trump to National Health IT Advisory Committee] https://t.co/wHI4zZuHgS
— Roy Poses et al. (@HealthCareRenew) February 7, 2018
Reported LA Times buyer Patrick Soon-Shiong tried to get on Trump’s health advisory team and was appointed recently to a panel by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Cher also recently sued him. https://t.co/ppEC07sjRT pic.twitter.com/XJhPyyCW2C
— Kevin Roderick (@LAObserved) February 6, 2018