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The man who bought Magic's Lakers stake

Photo by health2con/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong

So who is the billionaire Lakers season ticket holder to whom Magic Johnson has sold his 4.5 percent ownership stake in the team?

Besides being a cancer-treatment innovator and reportedly the wealthiest guy in town (he was ranked wealthiest Angeleno by the Los Angeles Business Journal, and tied with others for 154th among the world's billionaires by Forbes), Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has an interesting personal history. He's a second-generation South African of Chinese descent, transplanted to Los Angeles.

His parents left China, where his father was a village doctor, during World War II. Soon-Shiong was born and raised in South Africa under apartheid rules, which were also applied to Asians.

KCET, which gave him a Visionary Award earlier this year, has a video interview on its website in which Soon-Shiong describes one experience as a young physician in South Africa during which his first cancer patient, a white man, initially refused to let him examine him. Later, after all went well, the patient praised the "Chinaman" for his work.

Paid only half the salary of a white a doctor under apartheid, he eventually left and spent some time studying and practicing in Canada before coming to the United States. He joined the UCLA faculty in the early 1980s.

From there, the professional resume takes over: Soon-Shiong has been a surgeon, a professor and biotech entrepreneur, developing the drug Abraxane for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. He has founded two pharmaceutical companies, including Abraxis BioScience, Inc. (which was sold last week to another company for $2.9 billion, coinciding with the Lakers deal). He is also a philanthropist who has played a key financial role in the planned reopening of the troubled Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital.

The NBA's Lakers website has a detailed, if overly so, rundown of Soon-Shiong's lengthy professional resume; the Los Angeles Business Journal story from earlier this year touches on his philanthropic work; and a Forbes piece from 2003 gets into the gritty details of his research and success, which has not been without its pitfalls, among them a protracted legal battle with his investor brother.

Oh, and he's a Lakers fan, too. He's had those season tickets for 25 years.

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