UPI Should Have New Owner Within a Month, CEO Says

The following is a Feb. 10, 2000, report from Reuters:


NEW YORK, Feb 10 (Reuters) -- United Press International, a venerable American journalistic institution, could be sold by mid-March, the news service's chief said Thursday.

"Negotiations are going on right now and you can expect an announcement in three to four weeks, if all goes to plan," chief executive officer Arnaud de Borchgrave, told Reuters from UPI headquarters in Washington.

He declined to identify the prospective buyer, citing a confidentiality agreement he had signed with the purchaser.

But in Thursday's New York Post, de Borchgrave was quoted as saying: "We had a total of seven suitors, now it's down to one."

The Post suggested the new owner could be a "cash-rich Internet company" and quoted de Borchgrave as saying: "It's click rather than bricks."

He told Reuters that he has always intended taking UPI into the "Web-based future."

Internet access and services company Excite+Home is one of UPI's main customers in the United States but a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on rumors it would buy the news service.

UPI is currently owned by ARA Group, a London-based Saudi investment group, which paid $3.9 million in 1992 to bring the ailing news agency out of bankruptcy.

Last December, a Canadian press baron and one of US TV's most recognizable business reporters were mentioned as possible buyers. UPI journalists said they had been told that newspaper owner Conrad Black and former CNN financial anchor Lou Dobbs were both interested in acquiring the 90-year-old news service.

In the early 1980's, UPI was sold by its long-time owner, the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, and it later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as the economy forced newspapers to slash budgets.

Over the last two decades, UPI has lost out to Reuters and other news services for the dollars of newspaper and broadcast clients. In recent years, it has concentrated mainly on providing news for Internet sites.

Despite featuring Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, UPI maintains bureaus only in Washington, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami. For foreign coverage it relies on a network of freelance journalists and photographers and has no actual bricks and mortar offices.