Less than one month after staff members voted overwhelmingly to unionize the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper’s owners, tronc, are reportedly preparing to sell the publication to a Southern California billionaire doctor and major tronc shareholder.
Citing “people familiar with the company’s plans,” The Washington Post on Tuesday reported that tronc is selling it to Patrick Soon-Shiong, an LA-area doctor and entrepreneur for an undisclosed amount. The sale will also reportedly include the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The company—in both its current guise and its former identity as Tribune Publishing—has owned the Times since 2000. Since then, the Times has been subjected to nearly continuous rounds of budget cuts and executive mismanagement. Soon-Shiong’s purchase of the Times comes after a particularly volatile year for the publication, during which owners engaged in a heavy-handed (and frequently ridiculous) effort to prevent the staff from unionizing. Their efforts failed spectacularly. There was also a fierce battle with tronc over Times publisher Ross Levinsohn, who’d been accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment. He was subsequently placed on leave by the company.
While it is unclear what the sale of the Times would mean for the fourth largest newspaper in the country, the move comes as part of an ongoing struggle for control of tronc between Soon-Shiong and company chairman Michael Ferro.As the New York Times reported in March, Soon-Shiong has become disillusioned with Ferro’s high rolling personality and free wheeling spending.
Soon-Shiong has something of a contemptuous relationship with the news media, having lashed out this past May at what he claimed was “all this false reporting” over his company NantHealth. He’s also been accused of using his Chan Soon-Shiong NantHealth Foundation to funnel funds largely into his own ventures.
Nevertheless, it’s a sign of just how loathed tronc is that, according to Times reporter Joel Rubin, news of Soon-Shiong’s impending purchase was met by Times staffers with “cheers, claps,” and “screams.” Editor Mitchell Landserg tweeted that there were “lots of smiles and laughter in the LA Times newsroom for the first time in a very long time.”