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‘Fake News,’ L.A. Times Owner Patrick Soon-Shiong Pushes Back Against Report That The Paper Is Up For Sale

L.A. Times Vice President of Communications Hillary Manning tells L.A. TACO: "There is no truth to it, and there are no talks."

Photo: Joey Zanotti/Flickr Creative Commons

On Sunday afternoon, former Associated Press reporter Joe Bel Bruno published a bombshell story on The Intersect, claiming that the Los Angeles Times was up for sale and that Jay Penske, the owner of the parent company to publications such as Variety and Rolling Stone, was looking to buy.

"Any deal, which is not guaranteed as these are described as early talks, would transform Penske into an L.A. publishing mogul not seen since the Chandler family had a stranglehold on Southern California media via The Times," Bruno wrote in his report.

The story was backed up by at least two anonymous sources that Bruno described as people "directly briefed on the talks" and within "both publishers’ inner circles." The sources asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, according to Bruno.

Rumors of the pending sale come weeks after L.A. Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida announced that the publication was cutting roughly 12 percent of their newsroom.

Bruno also reported that Alden Global Capital, a "vulture hedge" fund infamous for gutting newsrooms, is also interested in buying the Times. Soon-Shiong sold the 155-year-old San Diego Union-Tribune to Alden Global Capital's MediaNews Group in a deal announced earlier this month.

"One person familiar with Soon-Shiong’s thinking said the doctor won’t entertain such an offer because 'he still has to live in Los Angeles,'" Bruno reported.

According to Bruno's sources, selling L.A.'s only major newspaper to Manhattan-based Alden Global Capital would make Soon-Shiong "persona non grata among the Los Angeles elite."

Late on Sunday evening, L.A. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong responded to Bruno's reporting in a tweet.

"Fake news ( if you call the piece news) that we are in discussions to sell the LA Times. Completely fabricated," Soon-Shiong wrote. "We are committed to grow this most important newspaper on the West Coast and the journalistic need to speak truth to power."

When asked about Bruno's reporting and the possibility of the Times being either sold, or in the Soon-Shiongs exploring a joint venture deal, L.A. Times Vice President of Communications Hillary Manning said: "There is no truth to it, and there are no talks."

Manning confirmed that Soon-Shiong and Penske met "more than five years ago" to discuss the Los Angeles Times and "not a deal per se," before the Soon-Shiongs bought the paper. Soon-Shiong and Penske "have not met since," according to Manning.

Manning told L.A. TACO: "The Soon-Shiongs have no interest in selling the Los Angeles Times," before referring to comments that Patrick Soon-Shiong made last week when it was announced that he sold the San Diego Union-Tribune to Alden Global Capital.

"Our intention now is to focus on the ongoing work of transforming the L.A. Times into a self-sustaining institution," Soon-Shiong said in a statement after selling the beloved San Diego paper. "Our hometown of Los Angeles and the state of California – really, the West Coast – needs a strong, independent news organization. We believe in the L.A. Times and are committed to its future."

On Monday morning, Bruno defended his reporting.

"He had 24 hours to reply," Bruno tweeted. "He did not. And my sources are buttoned down. He can say whatever he wants, but he should have started by talking to a journalist."

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