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San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times sold to healthcare billionaire

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Posted at 4:14 PM, Feb 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 12:18:03-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV/CNS) - The San Diego Union-Tribune has a new owner, its fifth in the past decade.

According to a CNN report, Los Angeles-based biotech billionaire Patrick Soon Shiong has agreed to purchase the U-T, The Los Angeles Times and other entities in the California News Group from Tronc for $500 million.

Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing, purchased the U-T in 2015 from local businessman Doug Manchester. The company owned the LA Times since 2000.

Soon-Shiong is the founder and CEO of Culver City-based NantHealth, one of Los Angeles' wealthiest residents and a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. He's the latest billionaire to buy a major newspaper, following in the footsteps of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post in 2013. That same year, Red Sox owner John Henry purchased the Boston Globe and, in 2014, Minnesota billionaire and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor bought the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

For the Union-Tribune, which this year marks its 150th anniversary, Soon-Shiong will be the fifth owner in the past decade. The Copley family had owned the newspaper for its entire run until 2009, when it sold the paper to Los Angeles-based investment firm Platinum Equity.

Manchester bought the paper for $110 million in 2012 and three years later sold the company's Mission Valley buildings to local developers for $50 million, and the publishing business for $85 million to Tribune.

The Union-Tribune employs about 260 people, down from nearly 2,000 under the Copleys, the paper reported. Much of the downsizing has come from outsourcing things like printing, packaging and distribution, but the news and advertising departments have also experienced widespread layoffs.

Soon-Shiong has limited connections to San Diego, including timeshares he's owned since 2001 at the Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara in Carlsbad. He's also vice chairman of Viracta Therapeutics, an anti-cancer biotech in Cardiff.

The sale of the LA Times comes amid recent reports of newsroom turmoil. In January, a new editor was named following growing concern by staffers over the direction of management.

Last month, LA Times journalists voted overwhelmingly to form a union. Their main concern was the company's plans to establish a network of non-staff contributors to produce stories.