What does the purchase of the LA Times by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong mean to the industry?

And why did he buy it? (Actually his investment firm, Nank Capital)

He is very rich, around $9 billion, apparently most of it from patents. He is considered a philanthropist, although there were some disturbing irregularities around his 2014 donation of $12 million to University of Utah (it came with strings attached that profited his organizations). This was described variously as money-laundering or as a tax dodge. On the other hand he seems interested in and is spending money on improving health care in the US by changing paradigms, and in a more effective fight against cancer.

I don’t know how well the newspaper is doing financially. The price ($500 million plus $90 million pension obligations) is about twice what Bezos paid for the Washington Post. In contrast, Hearst Corp. effectively paid $660 million for the much smaller circulation SF Chronicle in 2000.

On the one hand I hope that he is going to invest money in good local and state news coverage, which has nearly disappeared in California in the past 20 years.

On the other hand, how many major newspapers are going to end up being owned by incredibly rich guys? Is this a model that can sustain the industry in any sense?

(I know I can’t control this, but if you feel a desire to post “what’s a newspaper?” and “newspapers are dead so who cares?” types of posts, please resist the urge. There are some people who are still interested in the industry.)

On the one hand, a newspaper industry run by competing moguls isn’t exactly unheard of …

The corporate model has its problems and is most of the reason that newspapers have changed hands so many times since 2000 and also why they have downsized their newsrooms so drastically. Shareholders demand profits every quarter and seem to have no interest in the societal values of a free and vigorous press.

Hearst Corp. seems to be a better model, since it is a privately held corporation and power is not in the hands of one person, although they have a CEO of course. Full disclosure: I worked for one of their properties for most of my working life.

So aside from my movie-begotten worries about the power of communications moguls, I wonder if anyone knows anything more about this guy and if there has been any public disclosure about what his intentions are.

I’m one of the few people that still subscribes to a local newspaper. The state and local coverage is quite poor, but it’s better than nothing. Which is what every other media source provides. So I hope a way is found for it to survive.

The future of the newspaper industry is three or four national papers, NYT, WaPo, WSJ, and maybe one or two more. Then small local regional papers. The national papers will all be paywalled and the local papers will survive on advertising. None of them will be published on paper.
I doubt the LA Times will be one of the ones to survive. It does not have a national presence or reputation and the local population are not big readers.

I see two main possibilities:

  • Soon-Shiong has a completely new plan for the LA Times that no other US paper has tried.


  • This won’t last long.

Maybe I’m just naive or don’t understand, but that’s how it looks.

Actually, most of the great newspapers of the past were owned by incredibly rich guys. There was Robert Bingham in Louisville, Marshall Field in Chicago, William Hobby in Houston, Amon Carter in Ft. Worth, and many more.

The real problem is when the incredibly rich guy dies and the heirs start fighting over who gets to run the paper, who wants to sell out and get their money right now, inheritance taxes and on and on until they give up and sell out to a chain.

What we need is to have incredibly rich guys mentor a next generation of incredibly rich guys who are ready to step in and pay cash when the heirs want to sell out.