The owner of The Los Angeles Times is close to a deal to sell the newspaper to Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire Los Angeles doctor, two people familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday. The $500 million deal comes amid months of turmoil at The Times, including upheaval in the editorial and management ranks.
The transaction would include The Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune, these people said. Dr. Soon-Shiong is a major shareholder in Tronc, the parent company of The Times.
A deal could be announced as soon as Wednesday but could still fall apart, the people said. Tronc is likely to use the sale proceeds to pay down its debt.
Dr. Soon-Shiong, the founder, chief executive and chairman of NantHealth, a health care company, was in a public feud last year with Michael W. Ferro Jr., Tronc’s nonexecutive chairman, as they vied to increase their stakes in the company in apparent attempts to outmaneuver each other for control.
In January, the Times newsroom voted to form a union despite aggressive opposition from the paper’s management team. Shortly afterward, Tronc said that the newspaper’s publisher, Ross Levinsohn, was taking an unpaid leave of absence while a law firm investigated allegations of coarse workplace behavior while he was employed by other companies.
The Times has been plagued with leadership changes in the last year. In an effort to counter swelling mistrust in the newsroom, Jim Kirk, a veteran journalist and former editor and publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times, was named editor in chief on Jan. 29, replacing Lewis D’Vorkin, who became Tronc’s chief content officer.
News of the proposed sale was first reported by The Washington Post.