“Norm’s mandate is to help me hire the smartest talent,” he said.
He added, “You need the experience and chops of a person like Norm Pearlstine.”
Dr. Soon-Shiong’s acquisition of the newspaper returns it to local control after 18 years of out-of-town management. In 2000, the paper was sold by its controlling shareholders, the Chandler family, which had owned the paper for decades, to Chicago-based Tribune Co. It went through other iterations of management, including the real estate tycoon Sam Zell and hedge funds, a time that saw the once storied paper fall into disrepair amid steep staff cuts and, at times, a frat-house culture that further diminished morale.
In its heyday, the newspaper was an essential institution in the city, helping bind together a vast and sprawling metropolis. It began its rise in the late 1800s when it was bought by Harrison Gray Otis, a Civil War colonel, and over the years was an important cheerleader for Southern California, helping the rise of the region’s industries — aerospace, Hollywood, real estate. In the 1960s and 1970s, under the guidance of Otis Chandler, a descendant of Mr. Otis, the paper expanded nationally and internationally, earning a place among the country’s greatest newspapers.
Restoring that position as an essential voice in American journalism is Dr. Soon-Shiong’s goal, he said. “We have to find a way to be more competitive,” he said.
For Dr. Soon-Shiong, who grew up in South Africa as a son of Chinese immigrants and then moved to Los Angeles in 1980, the paper’s success is now tied to his own legacy. In purchasing the paper, Dr. Soon-Shiong, who in addition to his biotech businesses also owns a piece of the Los Angeles Lakers, is positioning himself to become an important power broker in the city.
With its diversity — the population of Los Angeles is roughly half Latino — and its dynamic economy as the fifth largest in the world, California has not in recent years been well-served by its journalistic institutions, he said.
“The Times has not taken advantage of that,” he said. “I look at the paper, it’s a shadow of its former self. We need to fix that.”