By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The parent company of the Los Angeles Times has sold the storied publication to one of the city’s wealthiest residents, Tronc reported Wednesday.
Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong's investment firm Nant Capital has agreed to buy the Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and various titles from the California News Group from Chicago-based Tronc for $500 million in cash in addition to assuming $90 million in pension liabilities.
"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," Soon-Shiong said in a statement.
Tronc had previously resisted any effort to buy the Times, its crown jewel in its newspaper empire. But recently the newspaper has been upended by internal turmoil. The paper's publisher had been placed on unpaid leave pending an investigation into sexual harassment allegations, three editors have helmed the Times in the past six months, and the newsroom voted to unionize over management's objections in January.
The Los Angeles Times is the largest newspaper on the west coast and has a history of award-winning journalism. It has been awarded 44 Pulitzer Prizes since 1942, including six gold medals for public service.
Most recently, it won the 2016 prize for breaking news reporting for its coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack on a Christmas party and the ensuing pursuit of the husband and wife mass shooters.
Soon-Shiong's purchase of the Times marks a return to local ownership for the newspaper after it was in the hands of the Chicago-based news group for much of the past two decades.
“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.
The Times Guild also congratulated Soon-Shiong on the purchase and said in a statement it "looks forward to working with a local owner who can help us preserve The Times as a guardian of our community and as the voice of the American West.
"Our readers expect and deserve the high-quality, independent journalism that has defined The Times for decades. This is important to Los Angeles, California and the nation," the guild said.
South Africa-born Soon-Shiong is a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team. Forbes magazine estimates his net worth just shy of $8 billion.