Patrick Soon-Shiong Plans To Move Los Angeles Times To New Campus In El Segundo
The Los Angeles Times this summer will move from its historic Art Deco headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to a campus currently under construction in El Segundo.
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong — soon to be the new owner of the newspaper — broke the news Friday during his first town hall meeting with the staff, explaining that he wants to create a newsroom for the future.
The Times' lease for its newsroom and business administration expires June 30. The previous owners of The Times had sold the iconic building where the newspaper has operated since 1935 to a Canadian developer, Onni Group.
Soon-Shiong said Onni has demanded a $1-million-a-month rent increase to keep the paper's staff at the building across from City Hall. Onni did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
"There's not much time for me to find accommodation for 800 people," he told more than 300 employees who jammed into the Chandler Auditorium in the Times building to get their first glimpse of Soon-Shiong. "We decided that we needed to create the most modern newsroom … one that respects the work and the lifestyle of the people who work in the newsroom."
"We need to build a campus that is there for the next 100 years, not to lease a building," he said.
There were audible gasps in the auditorium when Soon-Shiong announced the move. Some staff members have worked decades at the worn facility and were stunned to learn that they would leave their longtime home. For many, their commutes would grow, although others would have shorter commutes.
"We're glad to hear from Dr. Soon-Shiong and are heartened by his plans for investment in the newsroom. However, many of our staff members expressed concerns about unfeasible commutes and about not being close to the downtown institutions we cover," said Times data journalist and L.A. Times Guild co-Chair Anthony Pesce. "We raised our concerns with Patrick during the town hall and would like to propose ways we can mitigate the impacts on many of our journalists."
The Times also plans to keep some office space downtown, perhaps at its Olympic Boulevard printing plant, for reporters and others whose assignments require them to be downtown.
But instead of spending an extra $12 million a year on rent, Soon-Shiong said he wants to invest in hiring more journalists, improving technology in the newsroom and fashioning a modern campus with amenities and free parking.
The new campus, on roughly 4.5 acres, would include an eight-floor building with 120,000 square feet of space. A museum gallery of The Times' 136-year history would be housed on the first floor, along with event and retail space.
Teams of construction workers and architects are on the site trying to get the building completed in time, "working 24/7, literally through the night," Soon-Shiong said in an interview after the town hall.
Soon-Shiong's wife, Michele, is leading the design of the space, and he made several references to her interest in The Times' noted Test Kitchen. Two local architecture firms — Tichenor and Thorp in Century City and CO Architects in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood — have been hired to do the buildout.
Soon-Shiong has been snapping up properties in El Segundo, including one that houses the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Medicine, a center that offers diagnostics and personalized treatment for cancer patients.
"Everything he does is first class," said Suzanne Fuentes, the mayor of El Segundo, adding that she was delighted by the news of the paper's relocation.
"The Los Angeles Times is the paper of record not only for California but for the entire West Coast, and this points to how vibrant our community is," she said. "El Segundo's motto is 'Where big ideas take off,' and bringing the paper here means that this is the perfect place for big ideas."
Soon-Shiong is in the process of finalizing his $500-million purchase of The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Chicago newspaper company Tronc. The deal, first announced on Feb. 7, will return The Times to local ownership after 18 years under control by entities based in Chicago. The sale is expected to be finalized later this month.
Friday morning's town hall meeting was the staff's first opportunity to meet the former UCLA surgeon who amassed a fortune building, then selling two pharmaceutical companies. Soon-Shiong, 65, is one of Los Angeles' richest residents, with a fortune estimated at $7.6 billion by Forbes. He holds a small ownership stake in the Lakers, runs a cluster of healthcare companies and, last year, purchased a small California chain of hospitals that were struggling financially.