UPI Suitor Mulls Public Offer To Turn Wire Into Cooperative

Here's a June 17, 1982, story by Martha Brannigan of Dow Jones:



WASHINGTON -DJ- Leon Charney, the attorney who is considering a bid for United Press International, said he is contemplating a plan to revive the ailing wire service through public offerings to subscribers and news correspondents that would convert UPI into a cooperative.

Meanwhile, Charney said he has agreed to meet today with a representative of a Dutch charitable foundation that is willing to pump as much as $3.5 million into the Infotechnology Inc. unit under a proposed rescue plan.

The Dutch foundation's efforts are being led by Bob Goldner, an ex-UPI executive, and Julian Isherwood, a current UPI journalist based in Copenhagen. Goldner is flying to Washington today to meet with Charney to discuss the feasibility of a joint venture, Charney said.

The Dutch foundation is the National Postal Lottery in Amsterdam, which raises money through lottery sales. It says it is willing to make such a contribution, because it believes a new UPI, under Goldner and Isherwood, would expand coverage of environmental and Third World issues -- a big priority for the foundation.

Charney said that the concept appears workable to him.

"It's nonpolitical -- it's just good for the universe," Charney said. He added that an investment from the Dutch foundation, if it materialized, would provide funds to keep the news wire running for an extended period while detailed plans for a public offering could be worked out.

Charney called the cooperative concept, while only in its preliminary stages, "a very substantial and significant plan that may keep UPI working in a different form." He said he and associates had been mulling the approach before receiving a call from Goldner yesterday about a possible joint venture, but that the efforts could dovetail.

He said the new cooperative structure would involve "a public offering to 2,000 subscribers and make a cooperative out of UPI" so that "every subscriber would own stock."

He added that the new structure he is contemplating would make correspondents and reporters "independent contractors" who would receive another class of stock and own part of the cooperative. Reporters would be paid "per story or per line," he said.

He said he is talking to several Wall Street investment banking firms about underwriting such a project.

As reported, Charney began exploring a possible bid for UPI last week after a bid from religious broadaster Pat Robertson was withdrawn. He gave UPI $180,000 to keep the wire service in operation until midnight June 22, his deadline for completing the review of UPI's finances.

Robertson is seeking to force UPI to permit him to acquire the rights to UPI's name and certain archives.

UPI and its creditors plan to oppose the effort at a court hearing set for Monday.