By Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES, Oct 3 (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."
Soon-Shiong emigrated to the United States more than three decades ago with his wife Michele Chan, an actress who had a starring role in 80's CBS show "Danger Bay" and guest roles on " MacGyver." Since then, he has methodically climbed the ladder of success by adroitly mixing science and business.
He created drugs to fight diabetes and breast cancer and then sold the companies that produced them for a combined $8.6 billion.
In the four years since selling those companies, he quietly spent more than $400 million of his own money to build a national fiber optic network that would link cancer clinics throughout the country -- the groundwork for the health superhighway.
HIGH SPENDING, LOW PROFILE
Soon-Shiong's philanthropy was in evidence at his West Los Angeles office. The new superhighway was illustrated on a flow chart in a conference room where staffers edited a video of it on a nearby TV set.
In the lobby was a model of the campus surrounding the Saint John's Health Center, to which he has given $135 million to build a biotech research center and sports medicine clinic.
"There are few Patrick Soon-Shiongs in this world," said retired General Wesley Clark, who has served with him on non-profit boards. "A brilliant doctor, a great businessman and someone who is very patriotic. He understands what it means to give back to his country."
Elsewhere, Los Angeles bears the mark of Soon-Shiong's largesse and his fixation on healthcare. He and his wife operate the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation, which last year endowed a chair at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering to support research in engineering and medicine.
In 2009, after watching TV footage of a woman dying on the emergency room floor because doctors didn't notice her, he guaranteed $100 million to underwrite efforts to reopen Martin Luther King Hospital. The hospital, which has since reopened, serves the city's low-income population.
The coming months may mark the public convergence of his private passions: health, sports, philanthropy and his adopted city.
He wants to buy AEG in large part because he plans to build a $1.2 billion football stadium to return pro football to the nation's second largest city.
A diehard basketball fan, Soon-Shiong is not particularly keen on football. But he said owning a National Football League team would give him a platform to promote wellness by having players mentor younger fans on exercise and healthy eating, and sharing training and medical techniques with local doctors.
Until recently, Soon-Shiong kept a low profile. He and his wife did not want their name in a press release when they first donated $23 million to Saint John's in 2007 to build a biomedical facility, recalled medical center president Lou Lazatin.
"Finally, they agreed when I told them it would help my marketing," Lazatin said.
SURGICAL EYE FOR DETAIL
Soon-Shiong's business career started in the early 1980s with the help of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which gave him $2 million for stem cell research that could one day help treat injuries during space travel.
At the time, he was a surgeon at a hospital affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles. With the money, he opened a small lab near a veteran's hospital, where he developed treatments to reduce diabetes in pancreatic transplant patients and a cancer-fighting drug that doubled the response rate for the treatment of breast cancer.
His climb was not without bumps. In 1999, his brother Terrence filed a complex suit claiming Patrick Soon-Shiong neglected work on a diabetes drug being developed by a startup in which Terrence had invested. But an arbitrator found in Patrick Soon-Shiong's favor, and he declined to answer questions about the matter.
By 2008, Patrick Soon-Shiong controlled 82 percent of APP Pharmaceuticals, the company he started to develop injectable drugs to treat cancer and other illnesses. Soon-Shiong sold the company for $5.6 billion to Germany's Fresenuis Kabi Pharmaceuticals, netting him $4.6 billion.
In 2010, he sold Abraxis BioScience, which he had spun off from APP in 2007, to pharmaceutical company Celgene Corp. for $2.9 billion. His 82 percent stake was worth $2.4 billion.
Soon-Shiong paid Celgene $135 million for NantWorks, where he had begun the work of creating his planned high-tech health delivery network. He also bought or provided seed money to small technology companies to aid in that effort.
He paid $20 million to buy a controlling interest in KeyOn Communications, which provides wireless broadband service for rural markets, and another $10 million to a stake in Raptor Networks Technology, which makes switching equipment for high speed networks.
"He watches every detail. I get emails from him at 2:30 in the morning, said Stephen Berman, CEO of toy maker JAAKS Pacific, which is licensing technology from one of Soon-Shiong's companies to make interactive toys.
He gives more than just money, says songwriter Burt Bacharach, whose son went to private school with Soon-Shiong's daughter. Soon-Shiong showed up unannounced at Cedars Sinai Hospital one day, says Bacharach, to help doctors find the right combination of drugs to treat the musician's son, who had a persistent staph infection.
For L.A.'s richest man, that patient visit was a brief return to the role of physician that he insists he one day will resume. (Editing by Mary Milliken and David Gregorio)
#10: Tamara Gustavson ($2.7 B)
<strong>How she made her money</strong>: Her father, B. Wayne Hughes, founded Public Storage. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/tamara-gustavson/" target="_hplink">Forbes notes</a> that Tamara Gustavson first appeared on the list last year, when her father started disbursing his assets to his heirs. She served as the Vice President of Administration at the company <a href="http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=27530473&privcapId=3585173&previousCapId=305520&previousTitle=PUBLIC STORAGE" target="_hplink">from 1978 to 2003</a>. <strong>In the news for</strong>: In 2011, <a href="http://uscnews.usc.edu/university/officials_attend_mckay_center_groundbreaking.html" target="_hplink">Gustavson attended</a> the groundbreaking of USC's multimillion dollar John McKay Center for the college's football team. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: Gustavson is active with the the HollyRod Foundation, an organization founded by former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete and his wife, actress Holly Robinson Peete to help people with autism, Parkinson's disease. She also served on the board of directors of the USC-CHLA Institute for Pediatric Clinical Research from 2004-2008. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: The USC alum was elected to the USC <a href="http://uscnews.usc.edu/university/board_of_trustees_elects_three_members.html" target="_hplink">Board of Trustees in 2010</a>.
#9: Haim Saban ($2.9 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: Saban is most famous for bringing the<a href="http://www.saban.com/html/team/saban.html" target="_hplink"> Mighty Morphin Power Rangers</a> to the United States. Along with Rupert Murdoch, he then used his earnings to acquire the Fox Kids Cable Network and eventually sell it <a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/disney-snares-fox-family-for-53-bln" target="_hplink">to Disney for $5.3 billion</a>. <strong>In the news for</strong>: Saban is known for his staunch support of Israel, and he <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/201221584750141923.html" target="_hplink">has been accused</a> of using his media companies to spread neoconservative views. His Spanish-language television network, Univision, recently broadcast a report claiming that Iran is using Latin America as a base for terror plots against the US. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: Besides being a record-setting <a href="http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118051017" target="_hplink">donor to the Democratic party</a>, Saban and his wife Cheryl have <a href="http://www.chla.org/site/c.ipINKTOAJsG/b.3579339/k.3EE2/Cheryl_and_Haim_Saban.htm" target="_hplink">also donated millions</a> to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: Saban <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0536805/" target="_hplink">owns the rights</a> to thousands of children's television theme songs, including "Inspector Gadget," "X-Men," and "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe."
#8: Steven Spielberg ($3 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: Arguably the most successful director in Hollywood history, Spielberg made his fortune with big hits like "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," the Indiana Jones series, and "Jurassic Park." He's continued to build on that fortune in his role as DreamWorks studio head, producing major franchises like "Transformers." <strong>In the news for</strong>: Spielberg has been making a big push into television, but his expensive Fox dinosaur show "Terra Nova" <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/Steven+Spielberg+Terra+Nova+dust/6266218/story.html" target="_hplink">was just cancelled</a> after its first season. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: With the profits from his film "Schindler's List," Spielberg established the <a href="http://www.righteouspersons.org/index.php/about-the-foundation/history-a-mission" target="_hplink">Righteous Persons Foundation</a> to strengthen Jewish identity in the US. He has also supported causes like (RED) and the <a href="http://www.startribune.com/templates/Print_This_Story?sid=36404559" target="_hplink">Bush Clinton Katrina Fund</a>. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: In the 1970s, Spielberg made a bet with his good friend George Lucas to swap 2.5% of the profits on their upcoming films. Spielberg's film was "Close Encounters of the Third Kind;" Lucas's film was "Star Wars." Needless to say, Spielberg came out on top in the bet, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/television/a-reel-treat-jawing-spielberg-article-1.267390" target="_hplink">even though he lost</a>.
#7: Kirk Kerkorian ($3.3 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: After serving as a pilot in World War II, he founded Trans International Airlines and later sold it for millions in profit. In the 60s, he began to acquire and build casinos and hotels in Las Vegas. He's now known as a casino mogul, despite also profiting from investments in other industries. <strong>In the news for</strong>: In 2010, Kerkorian was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/22/kirk-kerkorian-to-pay-102_n_772768.html" target="_hplink">ordered by a court to pay more than $10 million</a> in back child support and an additional $100,000 every month for a child that isn't biologically his. Her mother had faked a DNA test to defraud Kerkorian, and the biological father turned out to be Hollywood producer Stephen Bing. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: His organization, Lincy Foundation, is named after daughters Linda and Tracy. It supports entrepreneurship in Armenia and cancer treatment centers in Las Vegas, notes <a href="http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/11/1124_biggest_givers/20.htm" target="_hplink">Businessweek</a>. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: Born in Fresno, California to Armenian immigrants, Kerkorian <a href="http://www.1st100.com/part3/kerkorian.html" target="_hplink">dropped out of school</a> in eighth grade to become a professional boxer. During World War II, he learned how to fly planes and served under the British Royal Air Force.
#6: Steven Udvar-Hazy ($3.4 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: While he was still a college student at UCLA, he brokered his first airplane deal between two airlines, reports <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/educate/college/careers/profile3-28-05.htm" target="_hplink">USA Today</a>. It was the start of a successful airplane leasing business that would revolutionize the aircraft industry. <strong>In the news for</strong>: In 2010, six months after retiring from Century City's International Lease Finance Corp., a company he founded, he announced a new airplane leasing company with the purchase of 51 airbus liners, reports the <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/20/business/la-fi-aircraft-leasing-20100720" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>. At the time, it was estimated that the deal was worth $4.4 billion. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: In 1990, <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/century-roar-and-buzz.html" target="_hplink">he donated $60 million to the Smithsonian</a> to create a hangar to showcase airplanes and spacecraft near the Dulles Airport called the Steven Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. He later increased that gift to make the total $65 million. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: During college, Udvar-Hazy was getting his airplane consulting firm off the ground while also <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/educate/college/careers/profile3-28-05.htm" target="_hplink">holding down two life-guard jobs</a>.
#5 (tie): Jin Sook & Do Won Chang ($4 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: The couple owns one of the largest fast-fashion chains around the globe, Forever 21. Their two daughters, Linda and Esther Chang, help run the company. <strong>In the news for</strong>: The company has been marred with criticisms about their <a href="http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=792" target="_hplink">factory conditions</a> and accused of <a href="http://youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com/blog3/copy-cat-forever-21-steals-speckles-the-loss-cat-concept-from-atlanta-artist-r-land-3/" target="_hplink">stealing clothing designs</a>. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: Because the Changs are born-again Christians, "John 3:16" is printed on the bottom of every Forever 21 shopping bag. Do Won Chang also founded Chang 21 Foundation, which gives money to faith and missionary groups, notes the <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/31/business/la-fi-himi-chang-20100731" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: Another inspiring fact. The power-couple founders have humble origins. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/jin-sook-do-won-chang/" target="_hplink">Forbes</a> notes that husband Do Won held down three jobs when the couple first came to LA from Korea: as a janitor, gas station attendant and coffee shop worker. Do Won Chang never went to college, and he was able to send both of his daughters to Ivy League schools.
#5 (tie): Jeronimo Arango & Family
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: Along with his brothers Manuel and Placido, Jeronimo creates discount supermarket chains that he was later able to sell to Wal-Mart, according to <a href="http://www.forbes.com/lists/2006/10/918F.html" target="_hplink">Forbes</a>. Arango's family is the reason that Wal-Mart, known as Wal-Mex, came to Mexico. <strong>In the news for</strong>: Arango's Acapulco home, known as "Malbrisa," was designed by John Lautner in 1973. It has a "sky moat" and a massive poured concrete shade. Check out <a href="http://www.moderndesigninterior.com/2011/05/john-lautner-arango-house-casa-marbrisa.html" target="_hplink">gorgeous photos here</a>. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: He founded the Mexican Center for Philanthropy in 1989. In a <a href="http://www.alliancemagazine.org/node/1328" target="_hplink">2004 interview</a>, he said it was because "more needed to be done to promote this culture of getting involved and giving some of your time, talent and money for the benefit of the common good - a culture of participation and generosity." One of its focuses is corporate social responsibility. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: Arango was born in Spain and studied art and literature in the United States. However, he never completed his college degree. A citizen of Mexico, Arango now lives in Los Angeles. Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zol87/5018909766/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Zol87</a>
#4: Sumner Redstone ($4.4 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: Redstone is the former CEO of Viacom, a media network <a href="http://www.viacom.com/ourbrands/pages/default.aspx" target="_hplink">whose channels</a> include MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central. <strong>In the news for</strong>: Now the executive chairman of the Viacom board, Redstone recently made waves with his <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203961204577267820855905192.html" target="_hplink">wavering decision</a> to attend the yearly shareholder's meeting this week. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: In 2007, Redstone <a href="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/68549.php" target="_hplink">committed $105 million</a> in grants to three hospitals across the nation; one of them was the Cedars-Sinai Prostate Cancer Center in Los Angeles. In 2010, <a href="http://uscnews.usc.edu/health/keck_school_receives_24_million_gift.html?view=full" target="_hplink">he gave $24 million</a> to USC's Keck school of medicine. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: At the end of March, Redstone will receive his own star on the Hollywood Boulevard walk of fame, joining the ranks of other media moguls like Ted Turner, Michael Eisner, Louis B. Mayer and Darryl Zanuck, notes the <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2012/03/redstone-to-skip-viacom-annual-meeting-but-still-gets-a-walk-of-fame-star.html" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>.
#3: David Geffen ($5.5 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: Working his way up from the mailroom in William Morris, Geffen founded two massively successful record labels and eventually <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/david-geffen" target="_hplink">became a founding investor</a> in Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios. <strong>In the news for</strong>: Geffen <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/prop-8-defeated-rob-reiner-bruce-cohen-dustin-lance-black-292021" target="_hplink">helped finance</a> the legal team that took on Prop 8 (and won) in Federal court. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: <a href="http://www.lgbtfunders.org/seekers/view.cfm?orgID=178" target="_hplink">The David Geffen Foundation</a> gives money to HIV/AIDS, Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Jewish Issues and the arts. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: Because William Morris only hired college graduates, Geffen lied on his application and pretended he'd attended UCLA. When the company then checked with the UCLA registrar, Geffen simply intercepted the letter in the mailroom and <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=sKwDcGnGKj8C&pg=PA277&lpg=PA277&dq=geffen+william+morris+letter&source=bl&ots=y0fMD-T2FR&sig=iBEo2oX25XUusdSHFHPdt5eYV3k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=n0xYT8f5OJH9iQLl-cCbCw&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=geffen william morris letter&f=false" target="_hplink">replaced it with a fake</a>.
#2: Eli Broad ($6.3 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: Broad co-founded Kaufman & Broad, which become one of the country's biggest home builders, notes <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/eli-broad/" target="_hplink">Forbes</a>. He later bought Sun Life Insurance and sold it to AIG for billions. <strong>In the news for</strong>: attending a recent Los Angeles reading of "8," a pro-gay marriage play. The performance feature George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Jamie Lee Curtis, to name a few. After the show, the 78-year-old man told the <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2012/03/george-clooney-brad-pitt-enact-prop-8-stage-drama.html" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>, "I'm here so that means I support what they're doing." <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: Broad is currently constructing The Broad, an art museum located on Bunker Hill in Downtown LA. He's the city's biggest art patron, having also underwritten the Disney Concert Hall and the Broad Contemporary Art at LACMA. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: In 2011, Broad's foundation <a href="http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/05/eli_broad_52_million_angeles.php" target="_hplink">received $52 million</a> from LA's Community Redevelopment Agency to build a parking lot for the Downtown LA museum. Governor Jerry Brown later closed CRAs across the state because he claimed California could no longer afford them. Instead, <a href="http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jan/31/explainer-the-end-of-redevelopment-agencies/?print&page=all" target="_hplink">Brown argued</a>, money should be directly spent on services like education and public safety.
#1: Patrick Soon-Shiong ($7.2 B)
<strong>How he made his money</strong>: His innovations as a young surgeon led him to leave the practicing medical field and found his own research company. He developed and patented cancer-fighting treatments, and created and sold two huge multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies. <strong>In the news for</strong>: <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dodgers/2012/01/dodgers-bidders-court-richest-man-in-la.html" target="_hplink">Being a potential bidder</a> for ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He already <a href="http://www.nba.com/lakers/news/101018johnsonsellstosoonshiong.html" target="_hplink">owns part of the Los Angeles Lakers</a> and is a 25-year season ticket holder. <strong>Civic Engagement</strong>: Soon-Shiong donated $35 million to help build a new research facility at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica in 2007, and they've given another $100 million since, notes the <a href="http://alumni.arizona.edu/alumni_groups/clubs/aafsaa/events/soon_shiong" target="_hplink">Arizona Alumni association</a>. He has also guaranteed $100 million to help reopen LA County's MLK Jr. Hospital. <strong>Fun fact</strong>: Not fun, but inspiring. Soon-Shiong was born in South Africa to Chinese immigrant parents who left their country during World War II. According to this <a href="http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2003/1006/126_print.html" target="_hplink">2003 story from Forbes</a>, he was the first non-white surgical resident at Johannesburg's General Hospital on staff and earned half the salary his white peers did. His first patient, a white South African man, initially refused to be treated by Soon-Shiong.