Patrick Soon-Shiong, a major shareholder in the Times, is the buyer. Soon-Shiong is the founder and chief executive of healthcare company NantHealth. The Times also reported that Soon-Shiong will buy the San Diego Union-Tribune. The deal for the two papers is reportedly close to $500 million.
Tronc did not immediately respond to a request for comment. If the sale goes through, it would cap a chaotic stretch in recent months that’s seen departures in the top ranks at the Times, along with a bitter fight between management and journalists over unionization and a proposal to increase contributions from freelancers.
Tronc’s predecessor company, Tribune Co., bought the Times in 2000 and has been cutting staff amid falling revenues with 400 on the news staff — less than a third of the peak of 1,300 in the late 1990s. Chicago businessman Sam Zell led a leveraged buyout of Tribune Co. in 2007. Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 and emerged from bankruptcy in 2012.
The news staff voted last month to form a union and has blasted Tronc’s plans to establish a network of non-staff contributors. Tronc named Jim Kirk, the former editor and publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, as the Times’ new editor in chief last week to replace Lewis D’Vorkin, who lasted three months on the job. D’Vorkin was appointed after Tronc fired four top editors, including editor-in-chief Davan Maharaj, in August.
Additionally, Times publisher Ross Levinsohn was put on leave last month after the disclosure of sexual harassment allegations against him while he worked at other companies. Levinsohn was named publisher in August.