L.A.'s richest man ups the ante for city, cancer fight

Wed Oct 3, 2012 4:19pm EDT
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By Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As owner of 5 percent of the Los Angeles Lakers, Patrick Soon-Shiong could walk into the locker room of the storied basketball franchise any time for a chat with stars like Kobe Bryant. But the richest man in Los Angeles chooses to sit with the rest of his team's fans.

"He's not one of those owners who wants to be seen everywhere. He's just one of the fans," said Bryant. The NBA star gives his owner a hug before every game for luck "and maybe some of the success" of the slender Los Angles surgeon who built a fortune exceeding $7 billion as a biotechnology entrepreneur.

For all Soon-Shiong's success, the South African emigre and son of a Chinese herbal doctor remains relatively unknown in Los Angeles, a city that thrives on status and celebrity.

That's likely to change soon.

In recent weeks, he emerged as a likely bidder for fellow billionaire Philip Anschutz's sports and entertainment unit AEG, owner of 100 venues worldwide and sports teams like the Los Angeles Kings hockey franchise and the L.A. Galaxy soccer team, not to mention a 20 percent stake in the Lakers.

And on Wednesday in Washington DC, Soon-Shiong and his L.A.-based NantHealth will unveil a joint venture with Verizon, Intel, Blue Shield of California and others to create a nationwide system for doctors to share DNA and other data on cancer patients. It will enable doctors to do genetic analysis of a patient's tumor in less than a minute -- a job that now can take from eight to 10 weeks.

"This is something the federal government should have done, but we waited and waited for them," Soon-Shiong told Reuters in an interview.

"It's unconscionable that cancer patients get the wrong diagnosis 30 percent of the time and that it takes so long to treat them with appropriate drugs for their cancer."   Continued...

Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Handout