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Billionaire details loan guaranty to reopen hospital

October 29, 2009 |  6:56 pm

The day after discussing his plans with The Times for a $100-million loan guaranty to underwrite the reopening of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital by 2012, Los Angeles pharmaceutical billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong spoke publicly about his plans alongside state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“It’s now an opportunity for us to right a wrong,” Soon-Shiong, 57, a former UCLA surgeon and assistant professor, said during an appearance at the California NanoSystems Institute in Westwood “This is an opportunity for me to be a catalyst, to bring together the UC Regents and L.A. County.”

Last week, Soon-Shiong sent a letter to UC President Mark G. Yudof offering the guaranty. University officials have said they welcome his interest.

“I am very confident the regents will approve,” said Bass, who also is a regent. “This was the final piece we needed.”

Soon-Shiong emphasized that his support is philanthropic, and said he would not be involved in day-to-day hospital operations.

Ridley-Thomas said county officials plan to line up more private funding for the hospital project in the coming months. The county already has committed to spending $350 million on construction and $63 million annually to operate the new nonprofit, 120-bed hospital.

"This gives the UC regents the confidence they need that the private sector will step up,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Soon-Shiong has been involved in previous efforts to reopen King, but failed to broker an agreement with Pacific Hospital in Long Beach last year after supervisors questioned the soundness of the funding.

—Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Westwood

Related: Billionaire offers $100-million guaranty to reopen King hospital