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Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong reaches deal to buy L.A. Times, San Diego Union-Tribune

Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Soon after, changes in news consumption began to erode the business, and Tribune's leaders were under pressure to sell. In 2007, Tribune sold itself to Chicago real estate investor Sam Zell in a costly leveraged buyout that left the company drowning in debt. Within a year, Tribune filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31, 2012, with a consortium of wealthy investors in control. Two years later, the board split the company. One group, Tribune Media, was made up of television stations, including KTBC-TV Channel 5 in Los Angeles, a stake in the Food Channel and real estate holdings -- including The Times' downtown L.A. headquarters.

The second company, Tribune Publishing, housed the newspapers, including The Times.

But the turmoil continued. Tribune Publishing's first chief executive, Jack Griffin, in 2015 ousted The Times' publisher, Austin Beutner, who was trying to build the paper into a civic square for Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

Griffin himself was sacked a few months later after he brought in Michael Ferro, a Chicago investor and then-owner of the Chicago Sun-Times. Ferro installed Justin Dearborn as CEO, and they renamed the company Tronc. Last summer, Dearborn fired a handful of top Times editors, including the previous publisher/editor, Davan Maharaj. He then hired Levinsohn, who was placed on unpaid leave in January after National Public Radio reported that he was a defendant in two sexual harassment suits before he joined the Times.

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The San Diego paper has experienced its own upheaval and ownership changes. The Union-Tribune, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, became part of Tribune Publishing in 2015. It was owned by the Copley family until 2009. Soon-Shiong becomes the fifth owner in a decade.

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