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Tronc Pushes Into Digital Future After Los Angeles Times Sale


Now, their white knight may have arrived.

Tronc (NASDAQ:TRNC) confirmed it will sell the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and other community-based papers to billionaire shareholder Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500M in cash.

He would become the first local owner of the Times in 18 years, but would be buying the paper in a time of turmoil.

Soon-Shiong and Tribune Publishing were the high bidders for the Register two years ago, but were blocked by the Justice Department on anti-trust grounds.

Soon-Shiong, owner of about 3% of Tronc, is founder of two drug companies and part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. Tronc had insisted The Times was key to its growth strategy given its proximity to Hollywood, technology hubs and the Pacific Rim.

Despite the changes in journalism, Kaplan notes that the Times is still the largest regional newspaper, with over 400,000 subscribers and that with smart management, "there's no reason they can't still be successful". He had been on unpaid leave from the Times.


The move comes after months of newsroom unrest at the storied Los Angeles daily that has seen three editors in the past six months, and a vote to unionize the journalists.

If approved, the sale would come about a week after veteran Chicago journalist Jim Kirk was named editor in chief to replace Lewis D'Vorkin, whose short tenure was marked by clashes with staff. The appointment of the former Forbes executive is met "with some skepticism in the newsroom", per the NYT, which cites journalists anxious that "Mr. D'Vorkin will be more focused on clicks and advertising, rather than pursuing ambitious journalism".

Soon-Shiong is the CEO of the Culver City, Calif., company NantHealth (NH). He's also vice chairman of Viracta Therapeutics, an anti-cancer biotech in Cardiff.

The predecessor to Tronc, the Tribune Co., bought the paper from the Chandler family in 2000, putting it in the hands of a Chicago-based company that often was at odds with the leadership in Los Angeles.

But Mr Soon-Shiong's relationship with Mr Ferro quickly deteriorated, leading to Mr Soon-Shiong's removal from the board past year. The web version of the report, by NPR News Media Correspondent David Folkenflik, is headlined "Accusations Of "Frat House" Behavior Trail "LA Times" Publisher's Career."

Should Mr Soon-Shiong succeed in buying the Times, he would take control of a paper with a rich legacy that includes 44 Pulitzer Prizes and deep roots in Los Angeles. And Tronc spent $4.6 million from February 2016 through September 2017 to sublease and operate a Bombardier jet for Ferro.

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