San Diego Union Tribune Newspaper To Sell To California-Based Physician

February 7, 2018

A deal has been made for Chicago-based Tronc Inc. to sell the Los Angeles Times, San Diego's Union Tribune, Spanish-language Hoy Los Angeles and community newspapers to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Los Angeles physician and a leading shareholder of Tronc, for $500 Million, making Soon-Shiong the fifth owner of San Diego's top newspaper in less than a decade.

Soon-Shiong is is a South African-born surgeon, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the founder of Culver City-based NantHealth, executive director of the Wireless Health Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, an adjunct professor of surgery at UCLA, Chair & CEO of the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Advanced Health (as well as the National LambdaRail and the Healthcare Transformation Institute), and a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. Soon-Shiong is estimated to be worth $9 Billion and is believed to be America's richest doctor.

Soon-Shiong would become the fifth owner of The Union-Tribune in less than nine years. In that short time span, David Copley of Copley Press sold the paper to Platinum Equity, which dealt it to San Diego developer "Papa" Doug Manchester's MLIM Holdings, who sold it to Tribune Publishing in 2015 for a reported $85 million. Chicago-based Tribune Publishing renamed itself Tronc Inc. in 2016. Soon-Shiong has no background in newspapers, except as an investor in Tronc.

The sale is of little surprise to many, as there have been months of tense back and forth between management and staff at the Los Angeles Times, which resulted in unionization, three different editors in 6 months, and its publisher placed on unpaid leave due to a sexual harassment investigation. Unlike the U-T, one family owned the LA Times for more than a century before the Chandler family sold it to Tribune Co. in 2000. 

Tronc, which is an acronym for Tribune Online Content,  also owns the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and New York Daily News, among other media outlets. Despite a tumultuous week on Wall Street, Tronc's stock price took a jump after the deal was announced, closing up 19% at $21.55 per share. 

With the sale of the San Diego Union Tribune, Soon-Shiong will also take over control of operations at U-T subsidiaries Discovery San Diego, Pacific Magazine, and eight more local weekly newspapers in the San Diego area.