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Tronc Preparing To Sell The 'Los Angeles Times'

Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET

Parent company Tronc Inc. is preparing to sell the Los Angeles Times, according to a Times report and a source familiar with negotiations who spoke to NPR on condition of anonymity.

The Washington Post reports that the buyer is Patrick Soon-Shiong, a major shareholder of Tronc, described in the Times story as a biotech billionaire. He would also buy sister paper San Diego Union-Tribune.

The reported price for the two newspapers is close to $500 million.

Among the issues roiling the Times is the turnover of executives following reporting by NPR's David Folkenflik on allegations of sexual harassment. Times journalists also voted recently to unionize. One of their grievances is management's plans to hire nonstaff contributors for stories published online.

As the Post reports, the Times remains an attractive property:

"Despite declining print readership and advertising revenue throughout the newspaper industry, the Times remains a strong brand and the dominant daily in the nation's second-largest city. It is the sixth-largest daily paper as measured by print circulation, with 431,000 subscribers, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. It is also among the leading news providers online, with 31.6 million unique readers in December, according to ComScore."

Tronc, formally known as Tribune Online Content, also owns other major dailies including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News.

Its forerunner, Tribune Co., bought the Times in 2000, and the ensuing years — coinciding with upheaval in the newspaper industry and declining readership — have been marked with tensions over numerous staff and spending cutbacks. At its peak in the late 1990s, the news staff was more than 1,000. Currently, about 400 journalists remain employed, the Post reports.

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Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
Barbara Campbell