South African-born billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has bought the Los Angeles Times newspaper, one of the largest and most widely-read publications in the US, for $500m (R6bn).
Soon-Shiong was born in Port Elizabeth in the 1950s to Chinese immigrant parents. He studied medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand before later emigrating to the US via Canada.
In a media release on Wednesday Tronc, the newspaper’s previous owner, said it had reached an agreement to sell the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and various titles in the California News Group to Nant Capital, Soon-Shiong’s private investment vehicle.
The deal was concluded for $500m (R6bn) in cash plus the assumption of $90m (R1bn) in pension liabilities.
“We look forward to continuing the great tradition of award-winning journalism carried out by the reporters and editors of the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and the other California News Group titles,” said Soon-Shiong in a statement.
Journalism has role to play
Los Angeles Times journalists on Thursday shared Soon-Shiong’s introductory letter to staff on social media.
“My own family immigrated from southern China to South Africa generations ago. We chose to settle in Los Angeles because this is the place that felt most like home.
“Ultimately, the decision is deeply personal for me. As someone who grew up in apartheid South Africa, I understand the role that journalism needs to play in a free society.”
Soon-Shiong assured the journalists that he would “work to ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely upon".
According to a profile of Soon-Shiong in the Los Angeles Times, he joined the University of California – Los Angeles’s medical school – in 1983, after moving from Canada. He later left the university and founded his own medical research firm in the early 1990s, make his fortune in pharmaceuticals and health care.
According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $7.8bn (R94bn), which makes him "America’s richest doctor".