The Forbes 400 Opportunity: Purchase the Los Angeles Times for the People -- and Leave a Lasting Legacy

Dear Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Other Billionaires:

Congratulations on making the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America. I saw each of you in the October 7, 2013, issue of the magazine.

I know you are busy juggling a lot of potential mega-dollar deals and managing a vast empire, so let me get right to the point.

You have more money than you will ever need, but you are mortal like everyone else, so your splendor will end soon and be forgotten in short order.

Many of you give a portion of your wealth to philanthropy. In fact, over 100 of you billionaires have made the "Giving Pledge," launched by Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates, publicly committing to give away at least 50 percent of your wealth, either during your lifetime or at death.

Here is a way to give some of your enormous wealth to a noble cause: Buy the Los Angeles Times, the region's most powerful institution, and in turn transfer ownership to the 10 million residents of Los Angeles County, the largest county in the United States and one of the most dynamic and influential regions in the world. Fully subsidize the purchase price, which we can conservatively place at $400 million.

If you did so, you would become an instant hero, indirectly gain more power and influence, and be remembered for all time.

It would be a great gain for the community, since 10 million owners -- each with one ownership and voting share -- ensures proportional representation and ensures local ownership. Under this governing structure, all the factions in the diverse County would have an equal say. Special interests would not be able to sway the coverage. What could be more democratic than this?

Individually, each resident would gain power, wealth, and access. Each person would be able to enjoy handling their broadsheet-size stock certificates each day and also become more enlightened by reading its ever changing quality content. An electronic information dissemination and voting system could be established in which the 10 million shareholders could elect individuals to manage the paper and periodically assert, say quarterly, its preferences on the finances and operations of the Los Angeles Times. Some residents may choose to opt out of the ownership option, for whatever reason, but a system could be established where these individuals could opt in periodically (e.g., once a year).

The enterprise's latest core product would be delivered on each resident's doorstep every morning. They would be able to see their return on investment every day. And since they would each be a part owner, they would have a say, a voice, in determining how that daily product could be updated and refined to better serve them -- the reader, customer, and equity investor.

This ownership model also has plus sides from a straight business standpoint. For example, the paper's daily circulation would likely increase significantly from its current 600,000, since we can reasonably assume that many of the other over 9 million owners would start subscribing.

Proportional ownership might also allow non-English speaking factions to pressure management to offer the newspaper in multiple language editions, as a high proportion of County residents do not regularly access the Los Angeles Times because they are not conversant in English or are simply more comfortable reading non-English publications. Such multiple language editions with the same content are customer sensitive and prudent marketing, which could greatly boost the paper's total paid circulation. That would mean more sales and advertising revenue.

We know there is a pool of wealthy people like you who could afford to buy the newspaper outright or by teaming together and splitting the cost. In Los Angeles alone, there are at least 40 billionaires, which the Los Angeles Business Journal keeps tabs on in a yearly special report. (Over 10 individuals have a net worth of over $3 billion, so the $400 million purchase price would constitute less than 15 percent of the person's wealth.)

By making such a sincere social investment, without gaining ownership and voting rights, any one of you could demonstrate beyond any doubt your selfless civic virtue and achieve immortality.

The Los Angeles Times should be owned by all 10 million of the County's residents. This collective ownership is the best way to ensure that we create and maintain a quality information source with minimal bias. It would generate greater community engagement and empowerment.

Why not? You have in your hands the power to make this happen. By purchasing the newspaper for the people, you can genuinely make the Los Angeles Times the largest community-owned newspaper in the world. You have the opportunity to do incredible good and become world famous for all time, thereby leaving a unique lasting legacy of unmatched philanthropy.

Calvin Naito is a strategic communications professional based in Los Angeles. E-mail: