Biotech billionaire 'close' to buying LA Times, US media reports

A biotech billionaire is “close” to buying the Los Angeles Times, according to reports in the US media.

Patrick Soon-Shiong already has a 26 per cent stake in LA Times publisher Tronc. The deal to purchase the Times and the San Diego Union Tribune is said to be worth $500m.

A deal could be announced as soon as Wednesday, pending negotiations continuing smoothly, sources have told the Washington Post.

In line with the wider news media industry, the LA Times has been struggling to build a sustainable digital business model against declining print circulation revenues.

The paper has undergone several rounds of cuts in recent years after its parent company went bankrupt – saddling Tronc with much of the debt. In the last decade, the LA Times has had five different publishers, the NY Times has reported.

Tronc non-executive chairman Michael Ferro brought in Soon-Shiong as an investor when the company was facing a takeover bid from USA Today publisher Gannett (also owner of Newsquest in the UK) in 2016, according to reports.

In an interview with The New York Times at the time, Soon-Shiong said he considered newspapers a “public trust” and wanted to preserve them. “I recognize the press is a very valuable tool for the community, where it really adds to democracy,” he said.

Tronc also own titles including the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News.

Soon-Shiong, a trained surgeon who grew up in apartheid South Africa, became a billionaire after selling a multi-billion dollar drug he invented called Abraxane.

Neither Soon-Shiong nor Tronc responded to requests for comment made by the FT.

Picture: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

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