The media company Tronc is selling The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune to a California-based billionaire doctor for $500 million, the company announced on Wednesday.
The sale also includes “other related community-based publications,” and the purchaser, Patrick Soon-Shiong, will assume $90 million in pension liabilities, Tronc says.
“This transaction allows us to fully repay our outstanding debt, significantly lower our pension liabilities and have a substantial cash position following the close of the transaction,” the company said in a statement.
Soon-Shiong said he looked forward to “continuing the great tradition of award-winning journalism” at the newspapers.
Soon-Shiong is the richest physician in America, according to Forbes; he has sold multiple drug companies and owns a network of health startups. He also has a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, Forbes says.
The sale comes amid turmoil at the LA Times, which was shaken by reporting from NPR’s David Folkenflik about multiple harassment allegations against the newspaper’s publisher.
The Times has also experienced upheaval within the newsroom. Former Editor-in-Chief Lewis D’Vorkin was replaced by Jim Kirk at the end of January. After just five months as the paper’s top editor, D’Vorkin became the chief content officer at Tronc instead.
“These moves follow intense newsroom anger over D’Vorkin’s [handling] of the paper’s coverage of Disney; amorphous plans to supplement Los Angeles Times and Tronc content with non-newsroom writers and content partners; and D’Vorkin’s obsessive reaction to newsroom leaks and controversies,” David reported at the time.
The newspaper’s journalists recently voted to unionize, with concerns over the paper’s management a driving force behind the organizing campaign.
NPR, reporting Tuesday on the plans to sell the LA Times, noted the troubled history between Tronc and the Times:
“Tronc, formally known as Tribune Online Content, also owns other major dailies including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News.
“Its forerunner, Tribune Co., bought the Times in 2000, and the ensuing years — coinciding with upheaval in the newspaper industry and declining readership — have been marked with tensions over numerous staff and spending cutbacks. At its peak in the late 1990s, the news staff was more than 1,000. Currently, about 400 journalists remain employed, the Post reports.”