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Los Angeles Times Owner Tronc to Sell Paper to Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500 Million

Billionaire founder of NantHealth to buy troubled paper as well as San Diego Union-Tribune

Tronc, Inc., the owner of the Los Angeles Times, announced on Wednesday plans to sell the paper as well as the San Diego Union-Tribune to L.A.-based billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Soon-Shiong, the founder of Culver City-based NantHealth and a major shareholder in Tronc, will pay $500 million in cash for the troubled media outlets in a deal that is expected to close by the end of this quarter or early next, pending regulatory approval.

The news comes after a turbulent few months at the L.A. Times, which demoted its top editor Lewis D’Vorkin after less than four months on the job. Jim Kirk, the former editor and publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, was just named editor in chief after D’Vorkin was moved to Chief Content Officer at Tronc.

“We are pleased to transition leadership of the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego-Union Tribune to local ownership, and we are certain that the journalistic excellence in Southern California will continue long into the future,” Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn said in a statement. “This transaction allows us to fully repay our outstanding debt, significantly lower our pension liabilities and have a substantial cash position following the close of the transaction.”

Soon-Shiong said, “We look forward to continuing the great tradition of award-winning journalism carried out by the reporters and editors of the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union Tribune and the other California News Group titles.”

The Michael Ferro-controlled Tronc also owns The Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News.

Soon-Shiong’s investment in Tronc (when it was still Tribune Publishing) kept the company from being purchased by Gannett, but the two have been feuding since.

Ross Levinsohn, the L.A. Times’ publisher since August, had been on unpaid leave after reports last month of his “frat house” behavior and previous allegations of sexual harassment.

He was restored as publisher after an internal investigation found no wrongdoing, and named to head a new division called Tronc Interactive, according to the paper.

The newsroom voted to unionize in January, and has demanded that Levinsohn not return to his position. A rep from their Guild did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment about the report of a sale.

In 2016, Tronc attempted a purchase of the Orange County Register, but a federal judge blocked the sale, saying that Tronc would have a monopoly if it owned the four largest papers in four counties of southern California. Runner-up bidder Digital First Media bought the Register instead.