1985 Editor & Publisher Piece on Mario Vazquez-Rana

Here's a December 1985 story from Editor & Publisher on Mario Vazquez-Rana's attempts to impress U.S. newspaper executives prior to his taking ownership of UPI:

A FAVORABLE FIRST IMPRESSION: Positive Reaction From Most Newspaper Execs

The recent nationwide trip by the two prospective owners of United Press International to introduce themselves to leading U.S. newspaper executives seems to have paid off.

Several of those visited by Mexican publisher Mario Vazquez-Rana and Houston developer Joe Russo told E&P they had favorable impressions of the two men.

Vazquez-Rana and Russo -- who toured the country aboard the Mexican publisher's private Falcon 50 jet -- were accompanied on their visits by UPI chairman Luis Nogales, editor-in-chief Maxwell McCrohon and director of sales John Mantle.

"I had a positive feeling," said New York Daily News publisher James Hoge, who is chairman of the UPI advisory committee. "They struck me as energetic, accomplished entrepreneurs."

Hoge said Vazquez-Rana had "the right things to say about the editorial independence of UPI and the need for a strong, well-financed business plan.

The Mexican publisher also detailed his media background, which Hoge termed "pretty thorough," and told Hoge that he planned to operate UPI "not as a Mexican, but as an international man."

Hoge said Vazquez-Rana, who will own 90 percent of UPI if his bid is approved, also said the company will remain "U.S.-based and U.S.-managed."

In San Diego, the prospective owners met with Helen K. Copley, chairman of Copley Newspapers, president Hubert L. Kaltenbach, vice president Herbert Klein and San Diego Union editor Gerald L. Warren.

"We were favorably impressed," Klein said of the meeting. "They faced up to our questions (and) indicated they were prepared to sustain UPI's losses."

Klein said they also asked Vazquez-Rana about his plans for improving UPI's Mexico coverage. Vazquez-Rana indicated, Klein said, that UPI "would be able to call on his newspapers and get additional coverage." Vazquez-Rana's Organizacion Editorial Mexicana (Mexican Publishing Organization) publishes 62 dailies.

However, Klein said the Copley newspapers would "take a hard look at what comes out" of UPI's wires before making any final judgments on the new owners.

At Times Mirror Co.'s headquarters at the Los Angeles Times, the meeting included editor-in-chief Otis Chandler, executive vice president Phillip L. Williams, Times editor William Thomas and times publisher Tom Johnson.

"They (Vazquez-Rana and Russo) briefed us on their reasons for buying UPI and their financial and personal commitments to its future," said Johnson. "I think we left feeling they were committed to insuring UPI's survival and rebuilding its news staff."

Johnson said the prospective owners did not, however, give a detailed account of their business plans for the news service.

"We said what mattered most to us is the quality of the news report, the completeness and accuracy of the wire," Johnson commented. "I think we are taking a wait and see attitude and will be monitoring their performance."

"I think the entire newspaper industry should wish them well and give them as much support as possible to help them turn UPI around," said Robert Page, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times. "One dinner is enough to convince me that they are an improvement over Ruhe and Geissler."

Douglas F. Ruhe and William E. Geissler are the present co-owners of UPI who were forced to give up operating control of the company after it filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11.

Page, who is a former general manager and vice president of UPI, was confident that UPI's editorial quality would be maintained under the new owners.

"Editorial quality didn't suffer under Ruhe and Geissler. It won't suffer under these guys," he said.

Vazquez-Rana and Russo also did not discuss their business plan with Page, but the Sun-Times publisher said he was "satisfied" that the prospective owners "understand the importance of UPI. Vazquez-Rana knows he's got his work cut out for him."