McCormick Media wants a bigger stake in Tronc

McCormick Media, which already has a definitive agreement to buy the 25.7 percent of Tronc stock owned by ex-chairman Michael Ferro, is in talks with another “significant” shareholder about increasing its stake even further.

The bombshell disclosure was buried in a regulatory filing McCormick Media filed on Monday.

The disclosure of the talks has triggered speculation that the secret talks are with Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the California bio-tech mogul who is set to buy the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc for $500 million.

News of the talks comes days after McCormick’s team met with Soon-Shiong, sources said.

Soon-Shiong’s 25 percent stake in Tronc makes him its second-largest shareholder.

In early March, the mogul’s deal for the two papers was said to be “imminent.” But seven weeks later, no deal has been finalized and Soon-Shiong, to some, appears to be dragging out the negotiations.

There has been speculation that the 65-year-old surgeon does not have the liquid money to complete the buyout, sources said.

Monday’s filing did not identify the name of the potential seller — opening the possibility that it could be any other shareholder, not just Soon-Shiong.

“[McCormick Media and its backers] are engaging in discussions with one or more significant stockholders of [Tronc] to determine if [McCormick] and such stockholders may desire to potentially engage in any such actions on a cooperative basis,” McCormick wrote in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

McCormick Media, headed by Sargent McCormick, is a trust controlled by the family members who once owned the Chicago Tribune. It agreed to pay $23 a share to buy the 9.1 million shares controlled by Ferro.

If McCormick agrees to give Soon-Shiong the same deal, it would mean Soon-Shiong’s 8.74 million shares would fetch $201 million.

Soon-Shiong, described as the richest man in Los Angeles, has long sought to buy the LA Times. Even though he has not closed on the deal, he told staffers at the Times 10 days ago that he plans on moving the paper’s offices from downtown LA to El Segundo, an industrial suburb about 20 miles away.

Soon-Shiong, who is a part-owner of the LA Lakers, is also part of an investment group trying to buy Major League Soccer’s DC United club.

Neither McCormick nor John Lynch, his partner, returned calls or e-mails seeking comment. Calls to Soon-Shiong were not returned by press time.

Tronc shares on Monday slipped 17 cents, to $18.87.

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