AP Photo/Evan Vucci
- Biotech billionaire and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is in talks to join an investor group bidding for newspaper publisher Tronc.
- Soon-Shiong, through his investment firm Nant Capital, may partner with a private equity firm led by hedge fund manager William Z. Wyatt, which has been in talks with Tronc since early August.
Biotech billionaire and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is in talks to join an investor group bidding for newspaper publisher Tronc, according to people familiar with the matter.
Soon-Shiong, through his investment firm Nant Capital, is in discussions to partner with private equity firm Donerail Group, led by hedge fund manager William Z. Wyatt, which has been in talks with Tronc since early August.
The people cautioned that the talks may fall apart and Soon-Shiong may choose not to work with Wyatt's firm.
A representative for Soon-Shiong could not be immediately reached for comment. A representative for Donerail Group declined to comment.
Soon-Shiong spent $500 million to acquire the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune along with Spanish-language Hoy and a bunch of other community newspapers from Chicago-based Tronc in June 2018.
Soon-Shiong also remains Tronc’s second-largest shareholder, with a nearly 25% stake. Chicago entrepreneur and former Tronc chairman Michael Ferro is the largest shareholder, with a nearly 26% stake.
The bid is not entirely surprising, as industry insiders were left wondering why Soon-Shiong coughed up so much for Tronc's California properties in June, when he could have had the entire company for just another couple hundred million.
Although Soon-Shiong's deal with Tronc was announced in February, negotiations to close the deal stretched for several months. The talks stalled around issues relating to how the California newspapers' website operations would run, as the back-end would be shared with Tronc for the next year. The potential partnership with Donerail enables Soon-Shiong to seize control of those operations and implement a smoother transition.
A 65 year-old South African native and former UCLA surgeon, Soon-Shiong has amassed a fortune by building and subsequently selling two biopharmaceutical companies. He owns six California hospitals, including St. Vincent and St. Francis in Los Angeles as well as a nearly 4.5% stake in the Los Angeles Lakers.
Since taking over the LA Times, he has been on a mission to rebuild and revitalize the newsroom, which saw three editors in 10 months and five publishers in four years. He has installed veteran journalist Norman Pearlstine as executive editor, and made several other high-profile hires including the New York Times' Sewell Chan as deputy managing editor.