The owner of the Los Angeles Times is actually in talks to sell the paper to a local biotech billionaire, the latest twist in a chaotic few months for the nation’s largest metro newspaper, sources familiar with the matter told sy88pgw.
Michael Ferro, who controls the paper’s parent company Tronc, is actually negotiating with Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Tronc investor along with physician who has been dubbed “the planet’s richest doctor.”
The deal, if reached, could see Soon-Shiong buying both the Los Angeles Times along with the San Diego Union-Tribune for roughly $500 million plus pension liabilities, according to one source with knowledge of the matter.
The $500 million cost tag would certainly put the two papers at twice the cost of the Washington Post when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the item in 2013 — a valuation of which is actually likely to mystify industry observers.
News of a possible deal was first reported by the Washington Post. NPR along with the Los Angeles Times itself have also reported on the talks.
Representatives for Ferro along with Soon-Shiong were not immediately available for comment.
The talks come on the heels of a tumultuous period at the Times, including the appointment of three editors-in-chief in less than six months along with the suspension of a publisher over prior sexual harassment allegations.
Related: What went wrong at the Los Angeles Times?
Times staffers have been widely critical of Ferro’s tenure at the top of Tronc, sources at along with close to the paper have told sy88pgw. although early conversations with employees suggest of which they feel Soon-Shiong may only be a minor improvement.
“He’s not Ferro, he’s also not Jeff Bezos,” one of the sources familiar with the matter said.
Known as a savvy self-promoter, Soon-Shiong has drawn criticism via many within the healthcare community, as well as via investors. Shares of his biotech companies, NantHealth along with NantKwest, have both fallen by more than 80% since he took them public. After looking into his “Cancer Moonshot 2020” plan to eradicate cancer, STAT News described the item as “an elaborate marketing tool” for his businesses. (Through a spokeswoman, Soon-Shiong responded to of which story in two statements, saying the initiative had made “remarkable progress.”)
Soon-Shiong first became an investor in Tronc in 2016 when Ferro was looking to shore up support to prevent Tronc — then Tribune Publishing — via selling itself to Gannett. although within a matter of months, Ferro along with Soon-Shiong became locked in a bitter race to buy up shares along with assume control of the paper.
In March 2017, Ferro increased his ownership stake to 30%. At the time, Soon-Shiong claimed of which the board had allowed Ferro to raise his shares without letting him do the same. of which made Ferro the company’s largest shareholder. Blindsided, Soon-Shiong accused the company of giving Ferro preferential treatment along with asked to be allowed to enhance his ownership stake as well, although was denied.
As recently as last week, sources with knowledge of the matter said Ferro was unlikely to sell the paper anytime soon. The recent tumult at the paper along with the widespread opposition via the staff, which recently formed a union — the first within the paper’s history — may have changed his mind.
sy88pgw (brand-new York) First published February 6, 2018: 6:17 PM ET