'Look at UPI's Finances'

Here's a story by George Garneau from the March 19, 1988 edition of Editor & Publisher:


United Press International's financial fortunes collapsed from a small profit in 1985 to $18 million in losses last year and losses mounting at a rate of $24 million this year, according to its new managers.

In other matters, UPI reported receiving $1 million in desperately needed short-term financing and was negotiating seriously with the Wire Service Guild on terms for a labor contract.

While annual expenses hovered around $90 million a year, revenue plunged from $90 million in 1985 to $72.6 million in 1987. UPI president Paul Steinle said in a March 9 memo to employees.

Losses of $4 million in the first two months of 1988 calculate to an annual loss of $24 million, based on $6 million less annual revenue.

The four-page memo provided by far the most thorough picture of UPI's declining financial fortunes in recent years.

It documents the news service's continued financial nosedive under the management of Mexican publisher Mario Vazquez Rana who bought it from bankruptcy in June 1986 for $41 million -- most of that in back debts -- and financed millions more in losses before turning over his troubled management last month to WNW Group Inc., essentially the third corporate management team since 1985.

WNW, affiliated with Financial News Network and Infotechnology Inc., is headed by Steinle as president and Dr. Earl Brian as chairman. Both are current or former officers of FNN, Infotech or related companies.

Steinle said the financial results were preliminary, and if any changes result from audits, "the overall picture will be worse."

Steinle also reported that Infotechnology Inc., had loaned UPI $1 million to cover overdue bills and expenses.

The loan, at 11 percent annual interest and secured by UPI accounts receivable, was reported after neither the Wire Service Guild nor anybody else responded to pleas for short-term financing leading to participation in future stock offerings.

Steinle said the $1 million "should address the company's most immediate and urgent cash requirements."

A week earlier Steinle had called UPI's financial situation "a crisis."

Steinle told E&P that UPI owes money for "just about everything," including health insurance, rents, phone service, advertising, supplies, stringers and employee expenses.

Though he said he didn't know how deeply indebted UPI was, the figure was "substantial."

"We are trying to raise money to pay all the bills," he asserted.

WNW took control of UPI in late February, promising to support losses until a business plan is formulated and recapitalization is sought through a stock offering.

About a week it asked for temporary financing.

Alluding to impending changes, Steinle said in his memo that turning UPI around "will require fundamental changes in the way we do business."

He pointed to "the inevitable need to reduce expenses," and added, "Unfortunately, this may mean reducing and/or redeploying staff, instituting cutbacks and other reductions."

Changes would be based on the impending business plan.

He said, however, that WNW was "dedicated" to stabilizing and rebuilding UPI and that he was finding support in the marketplace for UPI.

UPI has fallen behind on reimbursing employees for out-of-pocket expenses, the Guild said.

Guild spokesman Dan Carmichael said since Feb. 26 the union has presented UPI chief editor Al Rossiter Jr. with unpaid expense claims worth $33,000. He said slow payments earlier blamed on a "paperwork backlog" were not even being processed.