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Tronc Vice Chair Soon-Shiong to Leave Board

Douglas A. McIntyre

Tronc Inc.'s (TRNC) Vice Chairman Patrick Soon-Shiong will not stand for reelection, according to a list of directors in the current company proxy statement. The statement also shows he is the second largest shareholder and owns 12.9% of its shares via Nant Capital.

The move was unexpected. Soon-Shiong bought his initial stake in Tronc as a support to Chairman Michael W. Ferro Jr., who owns 15.9% of shares via Merrick Media.

Soon-Shiong is one of the wealthiest people in the United States. Forbes puts his net worth at $8.4 billion. The magazine says most of this is due to a sale of pharma companies "Abraxis and American Pharmaceutical Partners for a combined $9.1 billion."

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According to Crain's Chicago Business:

A major rift has emerged on the board of the company that owns the second-biggest U.S. newspaper chain, and a battle for control could be brewing.

The media company Tronc, formerly known as Tribune Publishing, controlled by Chairman Michael Ferro, is pushing out its vice chairman, Patrick Soon-Shiong. Still, the billionaire biotech mogul is bulking up ownership of the company even as he heads for the exit.

Tronc last year turned down an offer by Gannett Co. Inc. (GCI). More recently, Tronc was in the bidding for Us Weekly, which American Media finally bought. The price tag was estimated at $100 million.

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Tronc had $198 million in cash on its balance sheet at the end of last year, much of it provided by equity purchases of company stock by Soon-Shiong and Ferro. For 2016, Tronc made $6 million on revenue of $1.6 billion.

Tronc stock soared almost 6% last Friday and reached $14.12. Shares are flat this year.

It is open to question whether there are sharp disagreements between Ferro and Soon-Shiong about the future of the company.

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