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Who is Patrick Soon-Shiong? An LA billionaire with big ideas — and mixed achievements

James Rufus Koren, Thomas Curwen And Melody Petersen, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES -- After more than a decade of out-of-town ownership, the Los Angeles Times will once more be locally owned, this time by a billionaire immigrant with a track record of immense success and dizzying -- if sometimes unfulfilled -- ambition.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a doctor turned entrepreneur who was born in South Africa to Chinese parents, has reached a deal to buy The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, a move that would shake up Southern California's already tumultuous media landscape and expand Soon-Shiong's vast and varied business holdings.

With a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $7.8 billion, Soon-Shiong's deep pockets could portend reinvestment at The Times, which has seen its newsroom cut in half amid steady declines in newspaper advertising and more than a decade of management turmoil at its owner, Tronc Inc.

Soon-Shiong has been an investor in Tronc since 2016. At the time of that initial investment, he told The 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."

Soon-Shiong is one of several local billionaires -- including Eli Broad, David Geffen and Ron Burkle -- who had for years been rumored to be interested in acquiring The Times.

 

Unlike Broad and Geffen, Soon-Shiong is less well known as a philanthropist or civic leader. Much of his activity in those areas, as in his business pursuits, has been focused on healthcare and engineering.

In 2009, he began to put into motion a plan to streamline the nation's healthcare system by uniting doctors, hospitals and insurers through high-speed fiber optic networks, supercomputers and what he called a "wisdom database."

That same year, he pledged $100 million to St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. He later made a financial guarantee to help underwrite the reopening of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. He and his wife, Michele Chan, operate the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation.

Last July, he announced that his Culver City company NantWorks would take control of the operations of six California hospitals, including St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown Los Angeles and St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.

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