Austin Beutner’s ouster from the Los Angeles Times three weeks ago as chief executive and publisher of the beleaguered newspaper has kicked up a dust storm of speculation that doesn’t appear to be settling any time soon.
Initial reports emerged that Beutner could be reinstated as publisher if billionaire real estate developer and philanthropist Eli Broad finally succeeds in acquiring the Times. Or, some said, perhaps the two men would try again to acquire the Times outright after a failed attempt in 2013.
Broad isn’t the only one interested. The Business Journal reported last week that a source familiar with the situation said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the wealthiest person in Los Angeles, is interested in buying the paper.
“It isn’t that far along, but he is seriously considering it now,” said the source, who said Soon-Shiong considered buying the paper a few years ago.
The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, added that Soon-Shiong, whose net worth the Business Journal calculated at $15.3 billion in May, as of late last week had not contacted the Times’ parent company, Chicago’s Tribune Publishing Co., regarding a sale.
It’s unclear whether Soon-Shiong would be the sole bidder or whether he would partner with other individuals or groups. A spokesman for Soon-Shiong declined to comment.
Soon-Shiong, who is chief executive of Culver City’s NantWorks and made his fortune in biopharmaceuticals, has never owned a media company.
Meanwhile, another local billionaire is also interested in making a bid.
That person is DreamWorks Studios co-founder and record mogul David Geffen, according to a source familiar with the matter who also declined to speak on the record.
Geffen did not immediately return a request for comment.
“There’s a group of people, very wealthy people, who could be interested,” said former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in an interview with the Business Journal.
Mickey Kantor, a former U.S. Commerce secretary now handling corporate transactions as an attorney at Mayer Brown in downtown Los Angeles, also confirmed the existence of multiple interested parties in addition to Broad.
“There are potentially other people involved,” said Kantor.
Villaraigosa and Kantor are among 66 Southern California civic leaders, including former Mayor Richard Riordan – and Broad – who urged Tribune to institute local leadership at the Times in a letter last week. Neither Soon-Shiong nor Geffen were signatories to the letter.
Villaraigosa appointed Beutner, a former investment banker and financial analyst, as his first deputy mayor in 2010.
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