What's a Tronc (TRNC) worth these days, or, more precisely, what's a quarter of a Tronc worth in early spring 2017?
That's our media math question of the day. On Monday, Tronc Vice Chairman, would-be Friend of Trump, Los Angeles Lakers part-owner and anti-cancer crusader Patrick Soon-Shiong bought another 2 million shares of America's second-largest public newspaper company. Soon-Shiong paid $30 million to HG Vora, a $15 a share payday for the activist investment firm, which pocketed the same per-share price from Tronc Chairman Michael Ferro's Merrick Media in December as he bought 2.5 million shares of its Tronc stake.
While speculator HG Vora made a few bucks on its less than year-old investment, the financial fate of its two buyers can only be guessed at. Now Ferro and Soon-Shiong each hold just under 25% of Tronc's shares, and both are prohibited from buying any more by the company's recently reformulated poison pill.
As the two Tronc principals have added gradually to their holdings over the past several months, news industry and Tronc watchers have themselves speculated on the twin buying spree. Were the two -- joined at the wallet last last June when Ferro blunted industry leader Gannett's (GCI) hostile bid for the company by orchestrating a private placement sale of then-Tribune Publishing shares to the Los Angeles billionaire medical technology investor -- jointly amassing a big enough stake to prevent another hostile bid, from Gannett or elsewhere? Or was another game afoot entirely?
Though Tronc declined comment for this story and Patrick Soon-Shiong was unavailable, we now can answer that question.
Soon-Shiong, long desirous of owning his hometown Los Angeles Times himself, joins the expanding club of those out-gamed, for now, by wily financial engineer Ferro. Ferro surprised his Tronc vice chairman by moving to throw him off the Tronc board, according to a March 9 proxy statement filed in preparation for the company's April 18 annual meeting. Tronc will pare its directors to nine from seven, with Soon-Shiong and Donald Tang not standing for re-election.