I'm pretty sure the journalists at the Los Angeles Times never received any first greeting this warm from any of the people sent out from Chicago. Patrick Soon-Shiong doesn't take over until April, but I have to feel he just secured some precious goodwill.
By the way, a New York Times profile of Soon-Shiong this afternoon included the tidbit that he lives next door to former Times publisher Austin Beutner. I thought Beutner was in Pacific Palisades, but the story says Brentwood so we'll go with that for now.
An evening LA Times story reconstructing the stunningly quick sale to Soon-Shiong quotes Eli Broad, who had previously expressed dismay about the paper's decline and out-of-town ownership. "The Los Angeles Times is a crucial institution for our city, and its journalism an essential voice for our democracy," Broad said in a statement. "We expect Dr. Soon-Shiong will support the Times' hardworking staff as they provide in-depth, unbiased coverage of this globally significant region of 15 million people, as well as the national and international stories that matter most to its readers."
Here's the Soon-Shiong note to the newsroom, sent via Times editor Jim Kirk.
From: Kirk, Jim
Sent: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 6:21 PM
Subject: A note from Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D.
To the employees of The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and California News Group:
By now you may have heard the news that I have agreed to purchase The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and publications across the California News Group.
These publications have a long record of journalism excellence. Through the unique lens of Southern California, they have served our communities with distinction by daily searching for truth and by explaining our great state of California to the nation and world.
Returning The Times, the U-T and the California News Group to local ownership will give us a better chance to preserve their mission and independence.
It is often said that Southern California is the place where the world comes to see its future. It has welcomed generations of immigrants who worked hard, started new businesses and helped others do the same. 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 most felt like home.
Ultimately, this 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. As residents of Southern California, my family and I have seen the vital role that these publications play in binding our communities together.
This country, and Southern California, have given me unimaginable opportunity. This is where I deepened my education, built a family, found ways to contribute in medicine and science and was inspired through sports, entertainment and the arts. I am deeply grateful to this community and hope to make some measure of that gratitude known by supporting your work.
I have been a longtime admirer of your work. During the last several months, you’ve shown that despite many distractions, you continued to produce world-class journalism. I share your ambitions that The Times, the U-T and the California News Group have to be journalism enterprises that continue to thrive and prosper. We will continue to embrace change, new technologies and different ways of distributing news and information.
I want to assure you—everyone from the press room to the newsroom—that I will work to ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely upon.
I look forward to meeting many of you in the coming days and weeks, and helping you add to the long legacy of excellence that these publications have built.
I know that everyone will have many questions about the future. I hope to have some answers when we meet soon. In the meantime, please keep doing your stellar work and serving our devoted readers.
With respect and gratitude,
Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D.
For more reading, here's an oral history interview with Soon-Shiong and his wife, Michele B. Chan, in 2016. Both grew up in South Africa and immigrated to Los Angeles. The oral history was taken by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
My parents came to South Africa after the Japanese invasion of China, and they were simple shopkeepers. My father was an herbalist in China, so in South Africa he was also a Hakka Association doctor, and every two months a metal biscuit can would arrive from China filled with foul smelling weeds. If anybody had a fever, a cough, or a boil, there would be a knock on the door, they'd walk into the house, and he would concoct something. I'd sit there and watch that whole activity. I think my father’s work drove a lot of what I'm doing today because it started influencing my belief that you have in your human body the ability to protect yourself from disease. You were given the innate capability to heal yourself.
I was born in a small town on the ocean called Port Elizabeth, and Michele was born in an even smaller town called East London. Looking back, my childhood felt normal, but it was a strange normal because we were not black, and we definitely were not white. We could get on the bus, but we couldn’t sit in the regular compartments with everyone else. I grew up with black friends, white friends, Chinese friends, Indian friends.
Growing up in apartheid South Africa, we were always the underdogs. My black friends were always the underdogs. It gave me insight into the dignity and strength of the underdog. So part of what Michele and I do, consciously or unconsciously, is always fight for the underdogs in this country and for ourselves.
LA had the same climate that we had grown up in, and we felt so completely comfortable. California is incredibly accepting of everybody. It was probably the happiest time of our lives because we were just starting out and had nothing to lose. We had no car and an old TV that was handed down to us that we had to keep slapping on the side to work. It was perfect....
Disney hired me in 1984 on a show called Danger Bay. I worked on Danger Bay for about five years, then Hotel and MacGyver. I really loved the work. When we had children, I stopped working and was a stay-at-home mom until my youngest, who's twenty-one soon, went to college. Then, I went back to work, and I started Green Screen Studio in Culver City, and I became more involved in designing the NantWorks campus and the Innovation Center.