Tronc Close to Selling LA Times to Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong

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Shares of Tronc jumped 20% after the company announced it was selling the Los Angeles Times to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

"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", said Justin Dearborn, chief executive of Tronc, the name adopted for the group previously known as Tribune Publishing.

Ever since Tronc's forerunner company, Tribune Co., acquired the Times in 2000, the newspaper and its parent company have engaged in a cross-country feud about the paper's management and direction.

With the newspaper industry thrown into deep turmoil by the internet, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million.

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"I am concerned there are other agendas, independent of the newspaper's needs or the fiduciary obligations to the viability of the organization", he said at the time.

A biotech billionaire struck a $500 million deal Wednesday to buy the Los Angeles Times, ending the paper's quarrelsome relationship with its Chicago-based corporate overseers and bringing it under local ownership for the first time in 18 years. Levinsohn will oversee digital activities for Tronc's remaining papers, which include the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun.

Tronc said the deal will allow it to follow a more aggressive growth strategy focused on news and digital media. Soon-Shiong had leveled his own accusations against Tronc and its chairman, saying the company rigged its trading rules to let Ferro increase his stake while denying that option to him. Soon-Shiong's Nant Capital, a California-based technology firm, became Tronc's second-largest shareholder in June 2016 and that investment helped Tronc fend off a hostile takeover bid from Gannett, whose last offer was $864 million for the company. Soon-Shiong was ousted from Tronc's board in April.

The sale comes about a week after veteran Chicago journalist Jim Kirk was named editor in chief to replace Lewis D'Vorkin, whose short tenure was marked by clashes with staff.

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The LA Times, like many newspapers, has been downsizing its staff as readers turn away from print to online news platforms.

Reporters at the Times were alarmed by recent hiring of several news executives who reported to business executives, and not to news editors.

"Given that, we'll have to see which Dr. Soon-Shiong shows up in the owner's suite", Kennedy said.

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