October 27, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Patrick Soon-Shiong affirms commitment to the Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong on Friday reaffirmed his commitment to the Los Angeles Times.

Soon-Shiong made the statement shortly after the Wall Street Journal published an article stating Soon-Shiong was exploring a sale of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune less than three years after he purchased the beleaguered news organizations from Chicago-based Tribune Publishing.

“WSJ article inaccurate. We are committed to the @LATimes,” Soon-Shiong wrote on Twitter.

Soon-Shiong’s daughter, Nika Soon-Shiong, who has been involved in high-level management issues at the paper in the last year, quickly echoed her father’s statement. “WSJ is 100% wrong,” Nika wrote in a Twitter message.

The dispute comes three days after Tribune Co. announced it had agreed to be sold to New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital for $630 million. Alden Global needs support for that deal from Soon-Shiong, who owns 24% of Tribune Publishing separately from his holdings in Southern California. Holders of two-thirds of Tribune common stock not owned by Alden must approve the sale.

Soon-Shiong hasn’t weighed in publicly on whether he will approve the Alden Global Capital sale.

The biotech entrepreneur and his wife, Michele, purchased The Times and the Union-Tribune in June 2018 for $500 million. Since then the company, now called California Times, has embarked on an unprecedented hiring spree, adding more than 150 journalists to The Times. Soon-Shiong has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild The Times, strengthen its journalism, build out its new El Segundo campus and expand its audio and video offerings, including a partnership with Charter Communications’ Spectrum cable television service.

His efforts to turn around the paper have been slowed because of years of underinvestment by Tribune Publishing. The paper has labored to rebuild the technology to support its website and digital apps, and it has struggled to recruit and retain as many digital subscribers as The Times desperately needs. The Times was making progress with its revenue goals a year ago — until fears about the COVID-19 pandemic obliterated the advertising market.

The Times also grappled with internal turmoil last summer and a painful reckoning on its historic treatment of race in the newsroom and its news pages.

The Wall Street Journal article noted that Soon-Shiong did not immediately respond to a request for a comment before it published the article.

The Times’ spokeswoman, Hillary Manning, said the Wall Street Journal reporter reached out to Soon-Shiong Friday morning for comment and asked whether the information was inaccurate. But Manning said the Wall Street Journal did not wait for a response from the company before publishing. Manning shared the statement sent to the Wall Street Journal one minute before it posted the story:

“Dr. Soon-Shiong and his family continue to invest in and plan for the future of the Los Angeles Times, and do not plan to sell,” Manning wrote to the Journal reporter. “What you were told did not come from a credible source, as there are several inaccuracies. We respectfully ask that you not rely on any unnamed or off-the-record sources for this story. The information lacks a basis in fact.”