San Diego

New Era at Union-Tribune as Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong Takes Control

He will be the U-T’s fifth owner in the past 10 years.

Control of the San Diego Union-Tribune will officially change hands Monday when biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong takes ownership of the 150-year-old newspaper.

Soon-Shiong bought the Union-Tribune along with the Los Angeles Times and some community papers from Chicago-based Tronc, formerly known as Tribune Publishing, on Feb. 7 for a reported $500 million.

In a letter published Sunday in the U-T as well as the L.A. Times, the 65-year-old physician, who dedicated most of his fortune to fighting cancer, said he will protect independent journalism and fight fake news as if it were cancer.

“I believe that fake news is the cancer of our times and social media the vehicles for metastasis,” he wrote. “Institutions like the Union-Tribune and the Times are more vital than ever.”

Soon-Shiong told the U-T he does not intend to make any changes to the leadership of newspaper. He will take on the role of executive chairman while Jeff Light will remain as editor and publisher.

He also said he does not plan to lay off any of the 275 staff at the newspaper, which has shrunk dramatically in the past decade.

Though, Soon-Shiong said the paper will need to run as a business because of the “disruptions” of the digital age but he is committed to investing in the publication’s future and “never losing sight of the needs and interests of our readers.”

“While ad-supported print publications will continue to feel the pressures occasioned by the digital era, we are confident that our print products will remain viable and vital,” he wrote.

While most people view the newspaper business as a dying industry, Soon-Shiong said he bought the U-T and the L.A. Times because he wants “to preserve the integrity, honesty and fairness” he and his family have observed as avid readers of the Times.

He and his family want the newspapers he bought “to serve as beacons of truth, hope and inspiration binding our communities.”

“We view the publications we acquired as a quasi-public trust,” he wrote.

He will be the U-T’s fifth owner in the past 10 years. The paper was owned by the Copley family for 81 years before it was sold to Platinum Equity in 2009.  The Beverly Hills investment firm turned around and sold it to local real estate tycoon Douglas Manchester two years later.

In 2015, Manchester sold the publication to then-Tribune Publishing, which later became Tronc.

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