Doctor-turned-entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, who was born in South Africa to Chinese parents, has reached a deal to buy the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune — just another feather in his already impressive cap of successes.
Soon-Shiong stepped in at a critical time for the struggling newspapers, who have cut staff by half in the face of dropping circulation numbers.
"We need newspapers," he said. "We need this intellectual integrity. We need writers and editors who are passionate about this work."
Although his fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at almost R95-billion, South Africans are only now asking: who is Patrick Soon-Shiong?
The LA Times reports in its announcement of the sale that in 2009, Soon-Shiong put in motion a plan to streamline the U.S.'s healthcare system by uniting doctors, hospitals and insurers through high-speed fibre-optic networks, supercomputers and what he called a "wisdom database".
Here's a few things we also learnt from the LA Times about him:
- Soon-Shiong was born in 1952 in Port Elizabeth.
- His parents had left China during World War II.
- His father was a "herbal doctor".
- Soon-Shiong received his medical degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in the late 1970s.
- He interned at the then-Joburg Gen (now Johannesburg's Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital), which had never admitted an ethnically Chinese student before.
- He accepted a surgical residency with the University of British Columbia.
- In Canada, he met his wife, Michele Chan, who worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- The couple emigrated to the U.S. and Chan, an aspiring actress, was cast in the TV series "Danger Bay" and "MacGyver".
- Soon-Shiong developed a method for treating diabetes by transplanting insulin-producing cells into a patient's pancreas.
- He invented a medicine called Abraxane – a redesigned version of a top-selling cancer drug called Taxol. He sold the company that developed Abraxane to Celgene for $2.9-billion (now ~R35-billion) in 2010.
- Soon-Shiong also built and sold another pharmaceutical company, generic drugmaker APP Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by German company Fresenius for an estimated $4.6-billion (~R55.6-billion).
- He has become the target of several lawsuits claiming he is a "malicious businessman". He has also been sued by singer Cher, who claims he and others duped her into selling shares in a promising drug company back to the firm at a fraction of the stock's value.
- In 2017, Soon-Shiong launched Cancer Breakthrough 2020 — a collaboration of companies, doctors and researchers aiming to conquer cancer in just four years.
- He is an avid basketball player
Now you know!
Read the full LA times profile of this fascinating South African here.