Meeting With WA Staff in 1992

This moved on the UPI message wire in 1992 after Middle East Broadcasting Centre purchased the company from bankruptcy:


Notes from Pieter VanBennekom meeting with Washington staff today:

There's no word yet on what the Middle East Broadcasting Centre plans to do with UPI. "Whether they will keep anybody or everybody I do not know at this time," VanBennekom said.

He added that the future of current management, specifically himself and Executive Editor Steve Geimann, has not been discussed, either. "No jobs were offered and no jobs were asked for," he said.

* VanBennekom publicly thanked Pat Robertson and Leon Charney, noting that their money kept UPI afloat for the past several weeks. He also said the publicity surrounding Robertson's bid attracted more interest in UPI.

* VanBennekom said the new deal appears solid, since there's no due diligence or other "outs" for MBC. However, he said there's still some contracts that need to be worked out, such as an agreement with FNN, which maintains UPI's equipment. Still, he said: "We're very, very confident all issues will be resolved." VanBennekom said a deal is set to be closed by midnight Saturday.

* When asked about MBC's objectivity, Van Bennekom said: "I can't answer that for sure, because I haven't talked to the principals." However, he noted that MBC has headquarters in London, "where local employees have more freedom of operating" than they would in the Arab world.

"I think that's an encouraging sign," VanBennekom said. He and Geimann added that the news manager and deputy chief executive at MBC are Westerners, with years of experience in British journalism - including time spent with the BBC.

* As to operations in the interim period, VanBennekom said: "We still have to be extremely prudent and turn over every dime three times. In case there's any idea that the Arabs are money bags and now we can spend, that is not in the cards as long as (current management) is in charge. It continues to be our challenge to produce the best product for the lowest cost."

* When asked if MBC planned to continue U.S. domestic service, VanBennekom said he did not know one way or another. He noted MBC bought UPI primarily for its worldwide structure, but added, "That includes our domestic service."

* When asked why UPI and its creditors chose MBC over Charney, VanBennekom said: a) the creditors were leery of Charney's plan to issue them UPI stock. Many creditors got stock as part of the previous bankruptcy settlement, and did not get the value for it they expected. b) Charney wanted until today to finalize his bid, but the judge wanted to wrap things up yesterday.

Judge Conrad repeatedly said during the bankruptcy hearing that the goal of any auction is to maximum the return for the creditors.