Billionaire to Take Control of LA Times

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A biotech billionaire who purchased the Los Angeles Times with an eye toward restoring its independence and vigor will officially take control of the news organization Monday, the newspaper reports .

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong (soon-shong) is spending $500 million to buy The Times, San Diego Union-Tibune, Spanish-language newspaper Hoy and some community newspapers from Chicago-based Tronc.

The deal, announced Feb. 7, returns The Times to local ownership after nearly two decades under rocky Chicago control. The newsroom has been led by three editors in 10 months and five publishers in four years.

Soon-Shiong, 65, will become executive chairman of the California News Group.

He plans to move the newsroom from its iconic downtown headquarters to a modern building under construction 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) south in suburban El Segundo. The property will include a Times museum gallery, event and retail space.

Soon-Shiong takes on a storied yet diminished news organization that once had more than 1,200 journalists and more than 25 foreign bureaus. Now, The Times employs about 400 journalists with bureaus in Sacramento, Washington and some foreign and national outposts.

Newspapers across the country have struggled as readers and advertisers flock to the internet. Soon-Shiong has promised to rebuild The Times.

"The last three months has been an amazing experience for me to really learn — I mean on a steep learning curve — about all the elements that are affecting this industry," he said after signing paperwork to finalize the purchase.

On Monday, he will wire the money and the sale will be complete.

A South African native and son of Chinese immigrants, Soon-Shiong is a former University of California, Los Angeles surgeon who built a fortune by building and selling two biopharmaceutical companies.

He owns a nearly 4.5 percent stake in the Los Angeles Lakers and last year purchased six financially strapped California hospitals.

(KA)