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.