Tech: Biotech billionaire and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is talking to newspaper chain McClatchy about buying Tronc

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Patrick Soon-Shiong at an NHS Confederation conference.

BI PRIME: Soon-Shiong also remains Tronc's second-largest shareholder, with a nearly 25% stake. Michael Ferro, the Chicago entrepreneur who was formerly Tronc's chairman, is the largest shareholder, with a nearly 26% stake.

  • Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is considering bidding for newspaper publisher Tronc, according to people familiar with the matter.
  • Soon-Shiong is considering a joint bid with newspaper publisher McClatchy. He had previously been in talks to team up with a hedge fund manager for Tronc, but those discussions are now seen as less likely.
  • Soon-Shiong spent $500 million in June to acquire the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune along with a bunch of other community newspapers from Chicago-based Tronc.

Biotech billionaire and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, who had been in talks to team up with a hedge fund manager for newspaper publisher Tronc, is now considering a competing bid, according to people familiar with the matter.

Soon-Shiong is considering a joint bid with newspaper publisher McClatchy, the people said, asking not to be named because the matter is private. McClatchy is in "early stage" discussions to buy Tronc, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

Soon-Shiong, through his investment firm Nant Capital, had been in talks to partner with Donerail Group, the private-equity firm led by hedge-fund manager William Z. Wyatt, which has been looking to acquire Tronc since early August.

But these talks, while not dead, are seen as less likely and Soon-Shiong is now considering a bid with McClatchy. The people cautioned that no bids are finalized and Soon-Shiong may choose not to go ahead with a deal in the end. Soon-Shiong has also been shopping for other partners, sources said.

A representative for Soon-Shiong could not be reached for comment. Representatives for McClatchy and Donerail declined to comment.

Soon-Shiong spent $500 million in June to acquire the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune along with a bunch of other community newspapers from Chicago-based Tronc.

Soon-Shiong also remains Tronc's second-largest shareholder, with a nearly 25% stake. Michael Ferro, the Chicago entrepreneur who was formerly Tronc's chairman, is the largest shareholder, with a nearly 26% stake.

Soon-Shiong has access to Tronc's backend to manage the California newspapers' website operations for the next year, by which time he must either set up a new structure or acquire it. A partnership to acquire Tronc would enable Soon-Shiong to seize control of those operations and implement a smoother transition.

A 66-year-old South African native and former UCLA surgeon, Soon-Shiong amassed a fortune by building and subsequently selling two biopharmaceutical companies. Since taking over the Times, he has been on a mission to rebuild and revitalize the newsroom, which has seen three editors in 10 months and five publishers in four years.

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