1992 Reuters Story on UPI Auction

Here's a May 11, 1992, story by John Abell of Reuters on the possibility that UPI would be auctioned off in pieces:



RUTLAND, Vt., Reuter - United Press International, the venerable international news agency that helped shape how news was reported in the 20th century, may disappear with a whimper or get new life with a bang Tuesday when it is sold at auction.

Saddled with growing debts and impatient creditors, and now a mere shadow of its former self after years of staff cutbacks and bureau closings, UPI may be sold to the highest bidder or piecemeal to scavengers in the desperation forced sale.

The auction, ordered by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Francis Conrad last month, may mean yet another lease on life for UPI, which underwent numerous ownership changes and management upheavals in the 1980s as its client base dwindled.

Its 85-year-old name and reputation, known around the world, may be tempting to a would-be press baron who wants instant entry into the competitive and expensive business, now dominated by the Associated Press and Reuters.

UPI has said there have been several "serious expressions of interest" and welcomed an auction in part to spur an earnest potential buyer to action.

But if a satisfactory bid is not made for the whole of UPI -- which still has a skeletal international force of hundreds of reporters and editors -- its assets, which also include a U.S. radio network -- may be sold separately.

The auction will begin Tuesday afternoon in Rutland, Vermont's second largest city, because it is the home base for Judge Conrad, who has presided over UPI's bankruptcy as a visiting judge in New York City for several months.

It could be an extended affair.

Conrad, who is also an accountant, is described by court observers as concise and brilliant but is known for keeping court in session as long as possible, adjourning perhaps only when an overtaxed court reporter becomes fatigued.

Newspapers, television networks and even governments rely on news agencies to be everywhere at all times to gather news in places they cannot afford to be on a continuing basis.

UPI has done this with distinction.

Its far-flung correspondents and photographers earned nine Pulitzer Prizes and many other major journalism prizes, and the news agency can proudly claim to be the training ground for some of the world's most respected journalists.

Among its alumni are former CBS network news anchormanWalter Cronkite, once described by Time Magazine as the most trusted man in the United States. Its many less well-known former reporters include top editors and senior correspondents at a host of news organizations, including Reuters.

UPI was founded as United Press in 1907 by publisher E.W. Scripps and got its current name in a 1958 merger with the International News Service, which was founded in 1906 by William Randolph Hearst.

In August 1991 UPI filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, shielding itself from creditors while it tried to work out a plan to pay its debts.

At the time UPI listed $22 million in assets and $65 million in liabilities and said it had 586 employees staffing 140 bureaus in 90 countries, serving 2,500 media outlets.

UPI has estimated its loses at $100,000 a month and at a March 4 hearing Conrad opened the doors for the news agency's creditors to propose a reorganization plan of their own.

On April 28 Conrad authorized a forced sale, for May 12. The order was made a day after UPI asked him for an accelerated auction to be held by mid-May, saying it would not be able to meet its payroll at that time.

Its current parent, Infotechnology Inc., withdrew financial support for the wire service in October 1990 and itself filed for bankruptcy in early 1991.

UPI first filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1985 and emerged in its current reorganized form in 1986, only to refile against last year.