Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is not looking to sell the paper less than three years after he bought it, despite a Friday report to the contrary, according to a Times spokesperson.
“Dr. Soon-Shiong and his family continue to invest in and plan for the future of the Los Angeles Times, and do not plan to sell,” Hillary Manning, a spokeswoman for the Times, told TheWrap.
The Wall Street Journal said Friday that the billionaire is exploring sales options due to his dissatisfaction with the news organization’s “slow expansion of its digital audience and its substantial losses,” according to unnamed individuals who spoke with the WSJ. The paper also reported that options being considered by Soon-Shiong were “an outright sale of the entire company, bringing in an additional investor or transferring management of the properties to another media group,” such as to Alden Global Capital — the hedge fund that reached a $630 million acquisition agreement with Tribune Publishing earlier this week.
Shortly after the WSJ’s report was published, Soon-Shiong tweeted, “WSJ article inaccurate. We are committed to the @LATimes.” His daughter, Nika Soon-Shiong, also called the piece “100% wrong.” (A spokesperson for the WSJ told TheWrap that the paper is “confident” in its reporting.)
In a letter to members of the Times’ union, Media Guild of the West President Matt Pearce said has “not seen any reason to believe The Times is for sale” and said the paper’s search for its next top editor “appears to be in its late stages.”
“However, should there be any reason to believe this story is true, you should know that our union will be ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice to do whatever it takes to protect this newsroom and the people who work for it,” Pearce wrote. “If that moment comes, I will be calling on each of you to join the fight.”
Soon-Shiong purchased the L.A. Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2018 for $500 million from Tribune Publishing, then called Tronc. Shortly after the sale, Soon-Shiong said during an interview at TheWrap’s annual media conference, TheGrill, that he also invested close to $100 million to help rebuild the California papers.
“It wasn’t the money. It wasn’t the business. It was, do you want this paper to exist, or not exist?” he responded when asked if he had overpaid for the news organization.
Since then, the L.A. Times has made efforts to revitalize itself under Soon-Shiong’s ownership with new hires, a new office, relaunched sections and a focus on digital subscriptions. But despite an influx in readership over the past year, in large part due to the pandemic, the Times has struggled to meet its subscription goals, as TheWrap has previously reported.