LOS ANGELES — He was perhaps the least famous billionaire in a city brimming with wealthy celebrities.
But Patrick Soon-Shiong, 65, a doctor who turned a cancer drug into a multibillion-dollar biotech empire, emerged on Wednesday as a major figure in Los Angeles life with his surprise $500 million purchase of The Los Angeles Times and its sister newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Dr. Soon-Shiong has a long — and sometimes checkered — history in the medical field going back to the 1990s, but has kept a relatively low profile in the political, cultural and philanthropic doings of the city. He now faces the challenge of stabilizing a newspaper engulfed by turmoil and diminished in resources.
His is an immigrant’s tale that captures the story of Los Angeles today: a Chinese doctor who was raised in South Africa before coming to Los Angeles to make his fortune. He is worth an estimated $8 billion, and has been called the richest man in Los Angeles. He is a part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, having bought Magic Johnson’s 4.5 percent stake in the team in 2010 before setting his sights on what friends said he viewed as the ultimate prize of social cachet: the 136-year-old, award-winning newspaper that has long displayed the city’s ambitions to the world.
Dr. Soon-Shiong was already a major shareholder at the newspaper, joining the board of Tribune Publishing, which later became known as Tronc, in May 2016. In purchasing The Times, he has accomplished what eluded some of the most established business leaders here who have flirted for years with buying it — Eli Broad, David Geffen and Austin Beutner among them.
“A few weeks ago, the first black President of the United States saw a movie about the first black President of South Africa. Aside from that White House screening for Barack Obama, only four theaters are currently showing Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which goes into wider release on Christmas Day. So viewers curious to see how the movies have portrayed Nelson Mandela — the lawyer, outlaw and convict who compelled the Boer government to give equal rights to its black majority — must forage through Netflix or Amazon.com for older films.Perhaps no other historical figure could have seen his screen self played so favorably, and by such distinguished actors: Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Terrence Howard, Idris Elba, Dennis Haysbert and, in a supporting role in the 2009 Endgame, Clarke Peters. In that TV movie, the main role, a member of the African National Congress negotiating Mandela’s release, is taken by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of 12 Years a Slave.The burden of Mandela movies is that almost all of them could be called 95 Years a Saint. They are modern versions of Old Hollywood’s Biblical epics that tiptoe reverently around the teachings and personality of Jesus. And unlike Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film in which the Savior questions his divinity, there has been no Last Temptation of Nelson. Not that we’re demanding a Mandela exposé movie, but nobody has yet solved the trick of making this remarkable figure as complex as a great movie character should be. So far, most of his biopics have lacked in behavioral complexity and cinematic vitality. They are more suitable for school auditoriums than movie theaters.”
I don’t agree. I think Morgan Freeman in Invictus, did show a flawed but great leader, with depth and complexity.