Los Angeles Times sold to local billionaire for £358 million
Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong takes over during a turbulent time for the newspaper’s fortunes.
The Los Angeles Times is being sold to a local billionaire for 500 million dollars (£358 million), ending its strained tenure under the owner of the Chicago Tribune.
Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong is a major shareholder of Chicago’s Tronc Inc, one of the richest men in Los Angeles and, according to Forbes, the nation’s wealthiest doctor, with a net worth of 7.8 billion dollars (£5.59 billion).
The deal includes The San Diego Union-Tribune, various titles in the California News Group and the assumption of 90 million dollars (£64 million) in pension liabilities.
The announcement means that for the first time in 18 years, the Times will be under local ownership.
Dr Soon-Shiong takes over in a time of turmoil at the paper. The Times just replaced its top editor, the third switch at the top job in the newsroom in six months. Publisher Ross Levinsohn is on unpaid leave after revelations that he was a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits elsewhere.
Journalists voted last month to unionise for the first time in the paper’s 136-year history.
The sale is in keeping with one of two trends in media ownership: big companies getting bigger and wealthy investors taking on newspapers as philanthropic endeavours, said Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute.
In 2013, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for 250 million dollars (£179 million). Boston Red Sox owner John Henry bought the Boston Globe for 70 million dollars (£50 million).
Mr Tompkins said: “We find ourselves returning to where we were a century ago when a handful of wealthy owners controlled big influential newspapers.
“Here’s the difference: The ownership today does not promise lucrative returns. You take it over knowing it isn’t nearly as profitable as it might have been 20 or 50 years ago. Today it’s a thinner margin and it gets thinner every day.”
Dr Soon-Shiong also holds a minority interest in the Los Angeles Lakers, acquired in 2011 from Magic Johnson, the team’s former superstar and current president of basketball operations.