Patrick Soon-Shiong
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The Chicago-based owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times, tronc, is expected to announce it is selling the two Southern California properties, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The buyer will be Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Los Angeles–area physician and major shareholder in tronc. Soon-Shiong the billionaire founder of NantHealth in Culver City.

Since tronc’s forerunner, Tribune Company, bought the Times in the year 2000, a battle has raged between Los Angeles and Chicago. Sometimes the battle broke into the open, as other media, including the Reader, followed the internal squabbles. Things heated up recently, with Times editorial staff members voting to form a union, and the Chicqgo bosses replacing top management in Los Angeles.

The former San Diego Union was founded in 1868 and the Evening-Tribune was launched in 1895. The Copley family bought them in 1928. The two papers were combined into the Union-Tribune in 1992.

In 2009, the paper was bought by Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills–based buyout firm specializing in alleged resuscitation of ailing firms. The price was reliably reported around $50 million. About five years earlier, the U-T had been valued at more than $1 billion. (That was the estimated valuation of the Union-Tribune alone. It did not include other Copley newspapers that eventually were sold.)

Platinum Equity poured money into the paper and was going to buy other papers, believing that the newspaper industry would recover. But two years later, it gave up on the idea and sold the paper for around. $120 million to Doug Manchester, a local arch-conservative hotelier/real estate developer.

Under Manchester, the paper bought the North County Times and several smaller papers, and launched a TV station. The station failed in 2012. Manchester gave up on the enterprise in 2015, selling the U-T to tronc.

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Don Bauder Feb. 6, 2018 @ 5:21 p.m.

'BEEN THROUGH THIS SO MANY TIMES -- WE'RE JUST IMMUNE," SAYS U-T STAFFER. A U-T staff member says that his colleagues are basically shrugging, noting that the paper has had so many new owners in recent years that the staff is accustomed to possible turmoil coming with another new owner. "The general perception that most people have is that because of all the turmoil at the Times, they (tronc management) have kind of left us alone.

He says Soon-Shiong trumpets artificial intelligence and other advances that could bring more money on the internet side. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 6, 2018 @ 5:44 p.m.

FORTUNE SAYS SOON-SHIONG IS "AMERICA'S RICHEST DOCTOR" AND THE RICHEST MAN IN LOS ANGELES. The magazine says Soon-Shiong has hobnobbed with Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.

"Soon-Shiong inspires some strong emotions among the investor and life sciences crowd," says Fortune. "The dismal returns of his biotech companies, NantHealth and NantKwest (part of what Soon-Shiong calls an 'ecosystem' for cancer research including diagnostics and drug development) have elicited investor ire."

"Shares of NantHealth, which debuted in the summer of 2016, have plummeted 84 percent since its inception. On a similar note, NantKwest stock has plunged 87 percent since its 2015 initial public offering," says Fortune.

It sounds like he got cheap shares and dumped some while the stocks roared. I don't know that at this time, but San Diegans have made bundles selling off cheap shares of biotechs at high prices, before a collapse. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel Feb. 6, 2018 @ 9:03 p.m.

At the end of last year, Soon-Shiong was listed as having a net woth of $8.5 billion. That is less than half of the $20.6 billion listed net worth of Elon Musk. Interestingly, in 2016 Soon-Shiong's net worth was almost double what it is now.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:22 a.m.

danfogel: That may be because of the sharp decline of the biotech stocks in his portfolio. I suspect he sold a bunch before the collapses, but he is still left with many shares. But that's only a suspicion based on how so many so-called entrepreneurs pile up money...getting penny shares in an IPO, helping to drive it up with wild claims, dumping stock as the price soars, and sitting pretty for life after the company fails. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Feb. 6, 2018 @ 8:33 p.m.

Does he really think he can make a profit from newspapers? David Copley realized too late that the paper wasn't profitable and unloaded it. (There was some real estate packaged up wasn't there?) Platinum managed to screw up the paper worse than it already was, and yet flipped it to Dougo M for more than they paid. He tried to make a go of the papers (bought the North County Times and watched ti evaporate when he shut it down.) And now we have tronc. None have turned the papers around and/or made them profitable again. Those papers are, as it stands now, essentially worth nothing.

If he wants to play philanthropist and run the papers on a break-even basis or at a slight loss, that might be a worthy effort. But he shows none of the characteristics of a typical philanthropist.

Those U-T employees quoted are whistling in the graveyard. When Platinum sold it to Manchester, he soon shut down the presses and moved printing to a consolidated plant to the north. Didn't we learn that one hundred, more or less, workers lost their printing jobs? Those won't be coming back, and if any of the editorial folks are trimmed, those jobs don't come back. It's all downhill from here in that industry as it circles the drain.

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danfogel Feb. 6, 2018 @ 9:06 p.m.

He's a billionaire. maybe he just needs something to "help" with his tax liabilities.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:37 a.m.

danfogel: He may be counting on the two papers as a tax loss. Or he may want to use the papers, particularly the Times, to enhance his local standing in social circles. He may believe that metro dailies have a future. I suspect he is wrong on that point, but I could be wrong. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel Feb. 7, 2018 @ 10:35 a.m.

According to the LATimes when he invested $70 million in tron 2 years ago he said " he wanted to "save the integrity" of the publication" and "We need newspapers," "We need this intellectual integrity. We need writers and editors who are passionate about this work." In a statement, Soon-Shiong said, "We look forward to continuing the great tradition of award-winning journalism carried out by the reporters and editors of the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and the other California News Group titles."

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 12:18 p.m.

danfogel: That's what they all say. They are in business to uplift society, not make money. In his case, that may be true in part. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:03 a.m.

I have to correct my comment about the shut-down of the Mission Valley printing operation. It wasn't Manchester who did it, it was tronc. Manchester kept the building in Mission Valley and wanted to do other things with it. So, the U-T moved out and when it did the printing went to a LA Times plant.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:39 a.m.

Visduh: Yes, Manchester had plans to use the property for development. He took out papers to do so. The staff moved downtown. I don't know what has happened to the site. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark Feb. 7, 2018 @ 10:41 a.m.

Don: The building has been undergoing interior remodelling for months, but I don't know what it will eventually become.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 1:51 p.m.

Visduh: In the late years as the U-T staff declined dramatically, some of the space was rented out to other enterprises. However, the buildings and big parking space could be put to more lucrative uses than an office building. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat Feb. 10, 2018 @ 12:04 p.m.

The new owners don't agree. See link above.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:33 a.m.

Visduh: The U-T claims it is making money, but any company can make money with the help of a crooked accounting firm and often offshore banks. (Enron is the classic example.) Tronc doesn't break out the accounting that allegedly permits the U-T to say it is profitable.

Manchester's motivation was greatly self-aggrandizement. He wanted to have more power in San Diego. He realized that other media making fun of him gave him less clout. He was a disappointed man on selling to tronc.

Platinum made some positive tech changes, but this is most important: Platinum's M.O. is to buy sick companies in often-sick industries, claiming that it could make them prosper in a comeback. After buying the U-T, it entered into the bidding for other papers. Within two years, it apparently gave up on metro daily newspapers, for it sold the U-T and as far as I know stopped bidding on other papers. Sadly, this was probably a good move. Best, Don Bauder

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AlexClarke Feb. 7, 2018 @ 7:44 a.m.

Maybe he plans on using AI to replace the lowly human staff.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:40 a.m.

AlexClarke: There are a lot of ideas for use of artificial intelligence. Replacing humans in the newspaper business could certainly be one avenue. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 9:53 a.m.

IT'S OFFICIAL. TRONC ANNOUNCES SALE OF TWO PAPERS FOR $500 MILLION PLUS $90 MILLION PENSION LIABILITY ASSUMPTIONS TO SOON-SHIONG. CURRENT EDITORS WILL REMAIN IN POSTS. Chicago-based tronc officially announced today that the deal has been completed. Soon-Shiong pays $500 million plus assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities for the two papers. The company will land in Nant Capital LLC, a private investment vehicle of Soon-Shiong.

Tronc says the deal will allow it to pay part of its debt and pension liabiliities. (I know the U-T had significant pension liabilities when it was sold by Copley, but I don't know what has happened since.)

Jeff Light will continue as editor and publisher of the U-T, and Jim Kirk will continue as editor of the Times.

Tronc has also acquired a majority ownership stake in BestReviews, an online product review company in San Francisco and Reno. Best, Don Bauder

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Darren Feb. 7, 2018 @ 12:54 p.m.

Thanks Don, for your coverage. I find it a sad day for San Diego. SDUT/UT-SD is not the same since the Copley's $old it. This represents more M&A activity for the sake of investment and yield, not about enhancing journalistic quality. I also was against the 1990's consolidation of radio station by then Jacor (then Clear Channel), which tore newsrooms apart, we got less local news and independent talk radio. Yes, we have dozens of syndicated talk hosts out there who seem to trade what talking points they use daily (now that's real radio programming).

Way back, I got the San Diego Tribune (afternoon paper delivered), and the morning copy of the LA Times--it was a great way to see juxtapositions on news and opinion as the San Diego Union-Tribune was more conservative (then).

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 2 p.m.

Darren: The business community and Wall Street seemed to realize that metro daily papers were a lost cause around 2004-2005. I can remember when Gannnett stock was selling in the 90s and plunged below. $10. Similarly, I can recall when McClatchy was above $60 and. plummeted below a dollar. The plunge came relatively quickly.

A San Diego money management firm, Brandes Investment Partners, bought heavily into newspapers on the way down, thinking they were bargains. But the newspaper stocks kept going down and finally Brandes realized its mistake. Brandes itself had had major problems since then. Best, Don Bauder

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swell Feb. 7, 2018 @ 7:06 p.m.

Real journalism is becoming an anachronism. Every blogger fancies himself a news provider. Every newsreader on TV & radio pretends to be a journalist. Meanwhile real investigative reporters struggle against corporations and government officials to eke out some hidden truth. Around the world journalists are imprisoned and killed for their efforts to bring critical information to the public.

Nothing can bring dead tree news media to its former glory, but news, real news, must continue somehow. Financial support is hard to come by when almost everything else on the internet is free.

Let me suggest a new approach, in light of the importance of a Free Press in a free society: NO TAX.

In our country, establishments of religion pay no tax in the performance of their religious activity. No income tax, no real estate tax. These benefits have allowed churches with negligible membership to continue. Any donation, however small, goes a long way without the burden of tax.

News organizations should have the same benefit. But only if they uncover real news- not for parroting other reports. Not for opinions. Not for trivia. Independent journalists meeting these criteria should also be free from taxes. NO TAX.

I don't know how you would evaluate the quality of journalism, but a few publishers have attracted many excellent reporters and they know how. That proves it can be done.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:48 p.m.

swell: In an era when anybody can post something online and call himself or herself an investigative reporter, or an expert, there are real problems, I agree. Those bloggers are harming legitimate journalism.

Also, we seem to be going back to the nation's early days, when newspapers were shamelessly partisan. Look at what you can see (or not see) on Fox compared with what you will see or not see on MSNBC. Best, Don Bauder

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Darren Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:05 p.m.

Hi Don, I failed to mention in my post, that the going-concern/liquidity of both iHeart Radio and Cumulus Media, two conglomerates post Jacor Broadcasting & Clear Channel, are now in question. So there is going to be more volatility in radio/TV news outlets that were gobbled-up by the two entities mentioned. I'd love to see more independence and local TV/radio news, and especially talk radio (where they actually take call-in opinions, what a novel concept!). I credit C-SPAN for continuing to do telephone call-in shows. .

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 8:51 p.m.

Darren: Radio itself has problems. Network TV has come down. Metro daily newspapers are dying, but it may take a couple of generations for them to die. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2018 @ 9 p.m.

SOON-SHIONG SENDS NOTE TO U-T AND TIMES STAFFERS. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who has purchased the Union-Tribune and L.A. Times, as well as an affiliate, California News Group, sent a letter today (February 7) to his new employees. It was a platitudinous note, as could be expected, but he seemed to tip off his feelings on a pressing American issue, to wit: "It is often said that Southern California is the place where the world comes to see its future. It has welcomed generations of immigrants who worked hard, started new businesses, and helped others to do the same," he wrote. "My own family immigrated from southern China to South Africa generations ago. We chose to settle in Los Angeles because this is the place that most felt like home."

He went on to praise the U-T and Times and its employees for putting out a good product. Best, Don Bauder

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SportsFan0000 Feb. 7, 2018 @ 11:53 p.m.

Biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s investment firm Nant Capital is purchasing the UT and LA Times

Soon-Shiong (65) has been around the block a few time in the newspaper biz.

2015? Soon-Shiong made his $70.5 investment in Tronc, Soon-Shiong told the Los Angeles Times he wanted to “save the integrity” of the publication.

“We need newspapers,” he said. “We need this intellectual integrity. We need writers and editors who are passionate about this work.”

See Note From Soon To Employees reaffirming his commitment to news.

“My own family immigrated from southern China to South Africa generations ago. We chose to settle in Los Angeles because this is the place that most felt like home.

“Ultimately, this decision is deeply personal for me. As someone who grew up in apartheid South Africa, I understand the role that journalism needs to play in a free society,” he said.

Is this guy for real!? Have the LA Times and SD UT finally found an angel investor/owner who will grow the quality and news staff and keep his nose out of the news and editorial kitchens?!

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Don Bauder Feb. 8, 2018 @ 7:36 a.m.

SportsFan0000: He claims to have bought the papers to keep strong journalism going. However, those who invested in two of his biotech companies would be cynical about that claim. The stocks have plunged more than 80 percent since they went public. He keeps claiming he is devoting his life to fighting cancer, but those who lost big bucks in his biotech stocks are suspicious. Best, Don Bauder

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SportsFan0000 Feb. 7, 2018 @ 11:54 p.m.

Forbes magazine estimates the Doctor Entrepreneur is worth a cool $7.8 billion. His cash sources include business pursuits focused on healthcare and engineering He also is a minority owner of the LA Lakers and avidly plays basketball himself.

Dr Soon has an impressive resume that includes various international stints before joining UCLA Medical School in 1983 as an assistant professor in the gastrointestinal surgery division. A man in a hurry, he founded his own medical research firm in 1991, his work with cancer treatments, and his first billion-dollar breakthrough involving the cancer drug Abraxane.

He had a few hiccups with his drug Abraxane, that skeptics called a repackaging of a more expensive version of the drug. Then, the wolves circled in a 2014 whistleblower lawsuit . His companies stocks have lagged recently attracting more vultures in the way of shareholder lawsuits..

Can Soon-Shing help bring back the UT from deaths doorstep in its 150th year?! OR will soon focus his efforts on his new hometown LA Times paper and leave the UT to its own devices?!

The U-T currently employs about 260 people, down from nearly 2,000 when the Copley family owned the paper before it was sold in 2009. Much of the downsizing has reportedly come from production and distribution outsourcing, but news and advertising departments have also experienced layoffs.

UT Employees have seen this "white knight act" many times before with checkered results.

Dr Soon Shiang wrote a personal note to UT employees trying to head off panic in the newsroom. “I want to assure you — everyone from the press room to the newsroom — that I will work to ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely upon.”

We shall see if Partrick Soon-Shiong is willing to spend the dough to make the UT a great newspaper...

He ought to contact Don Bauder if he wants a great, crackerjack financial crimes editor!

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Don Bauder Feb. 8, 2018 @ 7:50 a.m.

SportsFan0000: A U-T employee told me that fellow U-Ters have felt they were ignored because of the turmoil at the L.A. Times. The U-Ters liked it that way. I think Soon-Shiong will probably concentrate on L.A. because a major purpose in the purchase appears to be enhancing his reputation in L.A. So U-T employees could continue to enjoy neglect from the big bosses.

Incidentally, very few newspapers want financial crimes reporters and editors. The New York Times continues its work in that area although it lost Gretchen Morgenson. The Wall Street Journal cut down on financial crimes reporting when Murdoch bought it. The Guardian does a great job. From the 1960s through the 1990s, Forbes did a great job in financial investigative reporting, but the deaths of the senior Forbes and editor James Michaels ended that. Best, Don Bauder

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SportsFan0000 Feb. 8, 2018 @ 12:24 a.m.

From what I have read, it seems that Dr Soon Shiang wants to, eventually, phase out human reporters and replace them with AI robots?!

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Don Bauder Feb. 8, 2018 @ 7:53 a.m.

SportsFan0000: I don't think a paper could replace hard-hitting reporters with artificial intelligence robots. However, AI could replace copy desk editors and some marketing positions. Best, Don Bauder

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swell Feb. 8, 2018 @ 5:06 p.m.

'Artificial Intelligence' is still a long way away. But we are close to a situation where it can report financial news, weather, some sports, some obits, etc. Later it will be able to summarize Reuters feeds, etc. AI will not go into a battlefield, a crime scene, or most places where investigative reporters go. AI will struggle to understand what is actually relevant to humans in a news story.

Right now AI could probably read the news to us on TV with a simulated human body of your choice. The lips would move correctly and you could even choose the voice and the clothing (or lack of). Have you any idea how much those attractive TV newsreaders are paid? Lots; so expect them to disappear as soon as fantasy newsreaders become available. You heard it in the Reader first!

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Ponzi Feb. 8, 2018 @ 7:58 p.m.

Automated Insights has been furnishing AI generated news for years. The product is called Wordsmith Solutions. It is used by many large news organizations including the Associated Press, Yahoo, tronc and more. It is highly effective in business news and sports results. You all have read them and may have not known it was generated by a "robot."

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Don Bauder Feb. 10, 2018 @ 8:02 a.m.

Ponzi: I didn't even know of Automated Insights. I would get a subscription but I am afraid I wouldn't understand any of the stories. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat Feb. 10, 2018 @ 8:12 a.m.

You can't get a "subscription" to Automated Insights. That's not available. It's not a publication.

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Don Bauder Feb. 10, 2018 @ 8:38 p.m.

dwbat: I must have misread Ponzi. Best, Don Bauder

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