March 22, 2019

Norman Pearlstine Named Editor of The Los Angeles Times

“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.”

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