The Los Angeles Times is offering its staff voluntary buyouts less than two years after biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong swooped in to buy the beleaguered newspaper in hopes of turning it around.
In an email to staffers on Wednesday, The California Times, the company that owns the Los Angeles Times, announced voluntary buyout packages to employees who have worked at the company for least two years.
The “separation plan” that CNN Business reviewed says that “employees of California Times and its subsidiaries” are eligible for the buyout. The California Times also owns The San Diego Union-Tribune, the now-defunct Spanish-language Hoy and several small community papers.
“Since the transition to local ownership, we have invested more than $100 million in staff, technology and infrastructure, and as we continue our transformation of the Times, we shall continue to invest,” reads the email, which was obtained by CNN Business. “We know that to build a sustainable business and ensure our ability to provide vital journalism for decades to come, we need to move swiftly to make our product more digital, more nimble, and more attractive to loyal and new audiences. Buyouts will help us accelerate this process.”
Soon-Shiong took control of the Times and the rest of what was then known as the California News Group in June 2018, bringing the newspaper back under local ownership for the first time in nearly two decades. The outlets were owned previously by Tribune Publishing back when it was still called Tronc, and under Tronc ownership, the Times faced years of turmoil.
“The buyout offer is intended to give us a little more flexibility to create and hire new roles, and to give some staffers who are looking to make a change an opportunity to leave on their own terms,” Times spokesperson Hillary Manning told CNN Business. “This is one step of many as we further the transformation of the company. We are committed to investing in areas that strengthen our ability to compete, grow revenue and produce vital journalism in the public interest.”
The company’s ownership told staffers they were not planning for any layoffs, Anthony Pesce, president of the Times Guild and a graphics and data journalist, told CNN Business. Staffers at the Times voted to form a union in January 2018 and ratified their first contract last October.
“Buyouts are an unfortunate reality. We wanted them to be standardized and get the best package we could. That’s part of the reason why we bargained a contract, and I think we’ll watch for any further developments and continue to try to protect the future of the LATimes,” Pesce said. “I’d like to thank our owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong for his continued investment in the newspaper. I know that it’s important to him.”