Biotech billionaire takes over at Los Angeles Times, new editor named

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Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. (AP)
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Norman Pearlstine. (AP)
Updated 19 June 2018
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Biotech billionaire takes over at Los Angeles Times, new editor named

  • Soon-Shiong, a surgeon whose biotech investments have boosted his net worth to some $7.5 billion
  • The new owner’s first move was to name as executive editor Pearlstine, 75, who has worked at The Wall Street Journal, Time Inc. magazines and Bloomberg News in a 50-year career

LOS ANGELES: Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong took over Monday as the new owner of the Los Angeles Times and immediately named respected journalist Norman Pearlstine as top editor.
The changeover aims to reinvigorate what had been one of the leading US dailies until it fell on hard economic times in the digital era and saw a rise in newsroom unrest.
“From today, our important work protecting and building on a rich history of independent journalism begins — with a sense of urgency and purpose,” said a note to readers by Soon-Shiong, who agreed to pay $500 million and assume $90 million in pension liabilities to acquire the daily from the newspaper group Tronc.
The new owner’s first move was to name as executive editor Pearlstine, 75, who has worked at The Wall Street Journal, Time Inc. magazines and Bloomberg News in a 50-year career.
“Not only does he have amazing experience with the full knowledge of how a newsroom runs — but he’s amazingly modern and forward-looking,” Soon-Shiong told the newspaper.
“There’s no agenda, other than to make this the best journalistic institution.”
Soon-Shiong, a surgeon whose biotech investments have boosted his net worth to some $7.5 billion, reached the deal earlier this year to take over the Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune, operating under the California News Group.
He becomes the latest billionaire aiming to revive the fortunes of ailing US metropolitan newspapers, following Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’s takeover of The Washington Post and investor John Henry’s deal for The Boston Globe.
He reached the deal after months of newsroom unrest at the storied Los Angeles daily that saw three editors in the past six months and a vote to unionize the journalists.
The LA Times, like many newspapers, has been downsizing its staff as readers turn away from print to online news platforms.
The Los Angeles daily was family-owned for more than a century before being sold to the Chicago-based Tribune Co. in 2000.
Tribune Co., which split off its broadcast division and renamed its publishing arm Tronc (for Tribune Online Content), will continue to own the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News.
Soon-Shiong, born in South Africa to Chinese parents, has been an investor in Tronc and also owns a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.
He has been a faculty member at the UCLA medical school and has invested in and donated to medical research.
 


Comcast outbids Fox with $40 billion offer for Sky in auction

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, arrives at the Sun Valley Resort of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 10, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Comcast outbids Fox with $40 billion offer for Sky in auction

  • Disney agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy most of Fox’s film and TV assets, including its existing 39 percent stake in Sky, in June and would have taken full ownership after a successful Fox takeover

LONDON: Comcast beat Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox in the battle for Sky on Saturday after offering 30.6 billion pounds ($40 billion) in a dramatic auction to decide the fate of the pay-television group.
The US cable giant bid 17.28 pounds a share for control of London-listed Sky, bettering a 15.67 pounds-a-share offer by Fox, Britain’s Takeover Panel said.
Buying Sky will make Philadephia-based Comcast, which owns the NBC network and Universal Pictures, the world’s largest pay-TV operator with around 52 million customers.
Chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts has had his eye on Sky as a way to help counter declines in subscribers for traditional cable TV in its core US market as viewers switch to video-on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon .
“This is a great day for Comcast,” he said. “This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.”
Comcast’s knock-out offer thwarted Murdoch’s long-held ambition to win control of Sky, and is also a setback for US entertainment giant Walt Disney which would have likely been its ultimate owner.
Disney agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy most of Fox’s film and TV assets, including its existing 39 percent stake in Sky, in June and would have taken full ownership after a successful Fox takeover.
Comcast’s final offer was significantly higher than its bid going into the auction of 14.75 pounds, and compares with Sky’s closing price of 15.85 pounds on Friday.
Comcast believed it needed to deliver a knock-out blow given that Fox’s existing stake in Sky gave it a chance of victory if it was a close second to Comcast, two sources said.
Comcast’s final offer — more than double Sky’s share price before Fox made its approach in December 2016 — quickly won the backing of Sky’s independent directors on Saturday.
“We are recommending it as it represents materially superior value,” said Martin Gilbert, chairman of Sky’s independent committee. “We are focused on drawing this process to a successful and swift close and therefore urge shareholders to accept the recommended Comcast offer.”
Fox will now concede defeat, a source told Reuters.
It is reviewing options for its stake, a holding that stems from Murdoch’s role in the creation of the company nearly three decades ago, the source said.
Fox declined to comment.
Comcast, which requires 50 percent plus one share of Sky’s equity to win control, said it was also seeking to buy Sky shares in the market.

HUGE PRICE
One hedge fund manager who holds Sky shares said nobody could complain about the Comcast price.
“The question now is if Fox actually sells out and if not can Comcast get to 50 percent,” he said.
Another hedge-fund manager said it was a “huge” price, and shareholders would accept it.
Sources familiar with the matter said Fox, Disney and Comcast had not been in discussions about the 39 percent stake.
The quick-fire auction marked a dramatic climax to a protracted transatlantic bidding battle waged since February, when Comcast gate-crashed Fox’s takeover of Sky.
It is a blow to 87-year-old Murdoch and the US media and entertainment group that he controls, which had been trying to take full ownership of Sky since December 2016.
Murdoch’s son James, currently chairman of Sky, was instrumental in building the company into the leading European pay TV group, with operations in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, and more than 23 million customers attracted to its top-flight sport and entertainment content.
Sky’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch said it was the beginning of a new chapter. “Sky has never stood still, and with Comcast our momentum will only increase,” he said. ($1 = 0.7648 pounds)