Tronc agrees to sell LA Times to pharmaceuticals billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong

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Media company Tronc has agreed to sell the LA Times to pharmaceuticals billionaire Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune and other titles in the California News Group umbrella will also be included in the $500m sale to the biotech investor. 

Mr Soon-Shiong, the CEO of NantHealth and once a Tronc board member, also assumed $90m in pension liabilities as part of the deal. 

“We look forward to continuing the great tradition of award-winning journalism carried out by the reporters and editors of The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and the other California News Group titles,” Mr Soon-Shiong said in a statement about the sale. 

The company said the money from the sale will go towards paying off its corporate debts as well as acquire more digital outlets in the near future. 

Tronc said the sale is expected to be completed in three months. 

With the sale, the LA Times comes back under local California control after nearly twenty years of being own by outside corporations. 

Mr Soon-Shiong mostly grew up in South Africa and made the bulk of his estimated $7.7bn net worth from selling generic drugs as well as developing a new cancer treatment method. 

Considering newspapers of vital public interest, the doctor became a major shareholder in Tronc in 2016 and was named as its Vice Chairman as the company fighting off a takeover from the publisher of the USA Today, Gannett. 

However, his reportedly negative relationship with Tronc’s Chairman Michael Ferro, Jr led him to be taken off of the board in 2017. 

As the New York Times reported the LA Times was the “crown jewel” for Tronc, the Chicago-based company which also includes the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore SunNew York Daily News, and the Orlando Sentinel newspapers. 

No plans have been announced to sell these other outlets at this time. 

Mr Soon-Shiong follows in the footsteps of other wealthy businessmen purchasing financially struggling newspapers. Amazon executive Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, John Henry owns the Boston Globe as well as the Boston Red Sox baseball team and Liverpool Football Club, and casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal

He also has at least a cursory tie to US President Donald Trump. The LA-based doctor was seen visiting with the President-Elect in January 2017 at Trump Tower in New York to discuss his possible role at the time of the director of the National Institutes of Health given his background in trying to cure cancer or a similar position as the administration’s “science czar.”