The delayed $500 million sale of the Los Angeles Times is still happening, despite some unexpected complexities.
The sizable offer from Nant Capital, owned by medical industry billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, hasn’t gone anywhere and financing isn’t the problem, Justin Dearborn, chief executive officer of L.A. Times’ parent company Tronc, said during a call with analysts. But he still doesn’t know exactly when the deal will close.
“It’s definitely not quarters,” Dearborn said when asked about a specific time frame on the sale. “Weeks to a month — I’m hopeful.”
He added that the delay is mainly due to the unexpected difficulty in separating the physical and technical operations of The Times from Tronc’s broader operations, noting the process has been “fairly complex.”
“There wasn’t a due diligence period leading up to this transaction, so when we got down to the infrastructure of the company, it’s taking some time to work through that,” Dearborn said. “I think we’re close and I remain very positive on the transaction.”
When prodded further about the closing, Dearborn noted that the latest date for the deal to close is Aug. 7, per an initial agreement. “I don’t envision it taking it that long, but it’s complex…this wasn’t bundled up and marketed,” Dearborn added. If the company had gone that route, it could have worked to have operations more or less separated before accepting an offer.
As for the pending sale of former Tronc chairman Michael Ferro’s personal 25 percent stake in the company, equal to about 9 million shares, to McCormick Media, Dearborn said he’s unaware of where that sale stands and that Tronc is “not involved in any way.”
Whether or not McCormick will take an active role with its shares also remains to be seen, as its purchase still needs regulatory approval, but Tronc appears out of the loop.
“I haven’t had any discussions with anyone representing the buyer,” Dearborn said. “I assume they’ll reach out to us when they retain the shares but they did not contact the company beforehand in any way.”
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