Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has agreed to purchase the Los Angeles Times from its parent company Tronc, restoring local ownership and perhaps ending a turbulent period for the 136-year-old institution, the newspaper reported Wednesday morning.
Chicago-based Tronc Wednesday will announce the sale of The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to Soon-Shiong’s investment firm Nant Capital for nearly $500 million in cash, according to a source familiar with the deal, The Times reported. In addition to the purchase price, the deal includes the assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities.
The sale comes after a stormy period for the newspaper, which has seen three editors in six months, its publisher placed on unpaid leave amid a sexual harassment investigation, and a vote to unionize the newsroom.
The deal came together over the past five days and took many observers by surprise, according to The Times. Tronc had fended off previous efforts to buy the company outright or peel off the California newspapers. Tronc had insisted The Times was key to its growth strategy given its proximity to Hollywood, technology hubs and the Pacific Rim.
Soon-Shiong is one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest residents and a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s the latest billionaire to buy a major newspaper. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013. That same year, Red Sox owner John Henry purchased the Boston Globe and, in 2014, Minnesota billionaire and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor bought the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The nearly $500 million price tag represents a premium for the struggling media properties, The Times reported. Traditional publications have fallen out of favor on Wall Street amid plummeting print advertising revenue as marketers have been showing preference for Facebook, Google, Snapchat and other sites and away from magazines and newspapers.