Billionaire close to deal to buy LA Times, San Diego Union Tribune

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech billionaire who amassed a fortune from developing a new cancer drug, is set to apportion some of his vast wealth to the purchase of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune according to reports in the Financial Times.

According to Tronc, the sale - which is expected to close in the late first quarter or early second quarter of the year - includes a $500 million cash payment, and Soon-Shiong will assume $90 million in pension liabilities.

In an interview with the Times past year, Soon-Shiong declined to say if he planned to buy the newspaper, although he acknowledged that as a major stockholder he was unhappy with the way it was being run and felt a need to ensure its survival.

Soon-Shiong, the billionaire founder and chief executive of California-based health care firm NantHealth, has previously been critical of Tronc's leadership, accusing the company of " past year.

Tronc had previously resisted any effort to buy the Times, its crown jewel in its newspaper empire.

Last month, the L.A. Times newsroom voted 248-44 to unionize and join the News Guild-Communication Workers of America. Soon-Shiong graduated from high school at the age of 16 and got accepted to the medical school at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The other companies under Tronc are Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Baltimore Sun. The Times also named Jim Kirk its new editor in chief last week, replacing former Forbes editor Lewis D'Vorkin after a tumultuous three-month tenure.

Among those reporting the possible sale is the Los Angeles Times newsroom itself, which published a story Tuesday afternoon on a sale to Patrick Soon-Shiong, 64, the billionaire founder and chief executive of Culver City-based health care marketing and developing company NantHealth.

A return to local ownership would restore pride at the Times, said veteran media business analyst Ken Doctor.

There will certainly be more developments involving this big media deal.

The sale would come amid turmoil at the Times, which has had a series of publishers and top editors in recent years. "My goal is to try and preserve the integrity and the viability of the newspaper". He owns 26 percent of Tronc shares, the Times said, but he has been at odds recently with Michael W. Ferro, the Chicago-based majority shareholder and non-executive chairman of Tronc. That sparked fears the business side would wield undue influence in editorial matters.