The move was unexpected. Soon-Shiong bought his initial stake in Tronc as a support to Chairman Michael W. Ferro Jr., who owns 15.9% of shares via Merrick Media.
Soon-Shiong is one of the wealthiest people in the United States. Forbes puts his net worth at $8.4 billion. The magazine says most of this is due to a sale of pharma companies “Abraxis and American Pharmaceutical Partners for a combined $9.1 billion.”
According to Crain’s Chicago Business:
A major rift has emerged on the board of the company that owns the second-biggest U.S. newspaper chain, and a battle for control could be brewing.
The media company Tronc, formerly known as Tribune Publishing, controlled by Chairman Michael Ferro, is pushing out its vice chairman, Patrick Soon-Shiong. Still, the billionaire biotech mogul is bulking up ownership of the company even as he heads for the exit.
Tronc last year turned down an offer by Gannett Co. Inc. (NYSE: GCI). More recently, Tronc was in the bidding for Us Weekly, which American Media finally bought. The price tag was estimated at $100 million.
Tronc had $198 million in cash on its balance sheet at the end of last year, much of it provided by equity purchases of company stock by Soon-Shiong and Ferro. For 2016, Tronc made $6 million on revenue of $1.6 billion.
Tronc stock soared almost 6% last Friday and reached $14.12. Shares are flat this year.
It is open to question whether there are sharp disagreements between Ferro and Soon-Shiong about the future of the company.