Tronc Jumps on Buying Two California Newspapers

Tronc (NASDAQ: TRNC) struck a deal to sell the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, sending shares skyward.

The buyer is reportedly billionaire biotech investor Patrick Soon-Shiong, a major shareholder in Tronc and chief executive of NantHealth, who was also expected to buy the Times' sister newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune

The Times, acquired by Tronc's predecessor Tribune Co. in 2000, has undergone several management changes and rounds of layoffs, reflecting a struggle by newspapers in general to adapt to digital media.

The newspaper's publisher and CEO, Ross Levinsohn, agreed to take an unpaid leave of absence last month following disclosure of sexual harassment allegations against him while he worked at other companies.

Tronc acquired the San Diego Union-Tribune in May 2015. Its other newspapers include the Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant.

Said Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn, "We are pleased to transition leadership of the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune to local ownership, and we are certain that the journalistic excellence in Southern California will continue long into the future.

"This transaction allows us to fully repay our outstanding debt, significantly lower our pension liabilities and have a substantial cash position following the close of the transaction. We will have a versatile balance sheet that will enable us to be even more aggressive in executing on our growth strategy as a leading player in news and digital media. We have a pipeline of robust opportunities and M&A will continue to be a significant part of our future.”

Shares hiked $3.78, or 20.9%, to $21.88.