Tronc to sell LA Times and other newspapers for US$500 mil

08 February, 2018, 00:46 | Author: Shannon Aguilar
  • LA Times to be sold to local billionaire

Chicago-based Tronc announced the sale of The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to Soon-Shiong's investment firm Nant Capital for almost US$500m (€406m) in cash.

After the sales of the newspapers, Tronc will still own the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Sentinel, among others.

The sale of The Los Angeles Times is in keeping with one of two trends in media ownership: big companies getting bigger and wealthy investors taking on newspapers as philanthropic endeavors, said Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute. Tronc did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment.

Soon-Shiong "remains a large and supportive shareholder", said Tronc spokeswoman Marisa Kollias.

Soon-Shiong's Nant Capital made a $70.5 million investment in Tronc in 2016, a move seen then as an attempt by Ferro to fend off a hostile takeover by Gannett.

Based in San Francisco and Reno, Nev., BestReviews' ownership will retain a minority stake and continue to manage operations.

The journalists in the Los Angeles Times newsroom also voted overwhelmingly to form a union last month. Most recently, its publisher, Ross Levinsohn, was placed on leave pending a sexual harassment investigation, and its editor, Louis D'Vorkin, was ousted last week after just three months in the job.

Tribune Co spun off its newspaper assets in 2014 as Tribune Publishing, which in 2016 renamed itself as Tronc, short for "Tribune Online Content".

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The will return to local ownership after its parent company agreed to sell its flagship publication to Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500 million.

Tronc had $185 million in cash at the end of the third quarter.

Ever since Tronc's forerunner company, Tribune Co., acquired the Times in 2000, the newspaper and its parent company have engaged in a cross-country feud about the paper's management and direction.

The deal includes The San Diego Union-Tribune, various titles in the California News Group and the assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities.

Soon-Shiong is the billionaire founder and CEO of Culver-based NantHealth, a biotech company.

Several former Times executives will take the helm of a new division of Tronc, to be called Tribune Interactive.

In an interview with the Times a year ago, Soon-Shiong declined to say if he planned to buy the newspaper, although he acknowledged that as a major stockholder he was unhappy with the way it was being run and felt a need to ensure its survival.

Soon-Shiong, 65, amassed his fortune in part by developing a cancer drug in 1991.

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