The Department of Justice has approved Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong's planned purchase of the Los Angeles Times, which would return one of the nation's largest newspapers to local control.
Soon-Shiong last month agreed to pay $500 million to buy the Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Spanish-language Hoy and several community newspapers from Chicago media company Tronc. Soon-Shiong is purchasing the newspapers through his investment vehicle, Nant Capital, which also has agreed to assume about $90 million in pension liabilities.
Tronc spokesperson Marisa Kollias confirmed that the company on Monday received the blessing of the Justice Department to sell the properties known as the California News Group to Soon-Shiong.
The approval removes a major hurdle for the transaction, which is expected to close in late March or early April. The company also is awaiting approval from the Federal Trade Commission.
A Justice Department spokesperson was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Soon-Shiong, 65, is one of Los Angeles' wealthiest residents. The surgeon-turned-entrepreneur was born in South Africa to Chinese parents and created a fortune by developing promising pharmaceuticals and selling the companies that he built. He is a part-owner of the Lakers and also the second-largest shareholder of Tronc. He has been an investor in Tronc for nearly two years.
Soon-Shiong has said he wants to buy The Times and Union-Tribune to return the newspapers to prominence.
"I fervently believe that the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union Tribune, Hoy and other titles in the California News Group must continue to serve as the beacon of truth, hope and inspiration binding our communities," Soon-Shiong wrote in a letter last week to company employees. "We purchased the California News Group because we wanted to preserve the integrity, honesty and fairness we've observed in our decades as avid readers of the LA Times.
"The titles in the California News Group will be the voice and inspiration not just for California but also for the nation," he wrote.
The sale of The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune will further shake up Southern California's already tumultuous media landscape. But employees hope that Soon-Shiong will usher in an era of stability for The Times. The 136-year-old institution in recent years has been roiled by management turnover and struggles with its Chicago-based corporate parent.
The purchase would cap a particularly stormy period for the newspaper, which has seen three editors in six months, its publisher placed on unpaid leave amid a sexual harassment investigation and a historic vote to unionize the newsroom.
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