Moonies Acquire UPI

Here's a May 15, 2000, story from UPI about its purchase by the News World Communications:


WASHINGTON, May 15 (UPI) -- United Press International, the 93-year-old global newsgathering agency, has been acquired by News World Communications Inc., which owns the Washington Times newspaper.

UPI Chief Executive Officer Arnaud de Borchgrave told UPI staff members that the news agency would retain its editorial independence and that News World Communications was looking for ways to upgrade and expand the operation. The terms of the sale, which included assets of UPI including the corporate name and trademark, were not disclosed.

De Borchgrave told staff his main concern in finding a buyer for the news service was retaining staff jobs. Editorial independence also was a top concern, and de Borchgrave, editor in chief at the Washington Times from 1985 to 1991, said that independence would continue.

"I've never in my 54 years in journalism enjoyed more freedom and independence than at the Washington Times," he said. He said the owners never once interfered in editorial decisions.

De Borchgrave said while some top officials of News World Communications are members of the Unification Church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the church has no formal ties to News World Communications.

De Borchgrave, 73, will remain chief executive officer of UPI, a post he has held since January 1999. He said Tony Jay Jr. will move from being chief financial officer to chief operations officer. Dong Moon Joo, president of the Washington Times Corp. and president of News World Communications, will become chairman of the UPI board. De Borchgrave also said Fred Newton, a financial consultant who assisted in the transaction, will become treasurer.

Grey Burkhart, UPI publisher, is leaving the company, de Borchgrave said.

De Borchgrave said the position of editor in chief would remain unfilled while several options were considered.

De Borchgrave said UPI has a total of 157 employees, including 107 in the United States, 28 in London, 16 in Latin America and six in Asia. He said all jobs were being retained.

Asked whether UPI was making money, de Borchgrave said, "Not yet, but we'll get there."

Larry Moffitt, special assistant to Joo, noted that UPI has begun providing news to a variety of Internet sites. He said News World Communications is interested in further developing that service, including video streaming. He also said News World will examine opportunities for value-added news, including customized news in such areas as: national security; family, faith and morality; science, technology and health; and economics and business.

"UPI will maintain its editorial independence and build on its reputation for honest, fair-minded reporting that has made it an essential and respected news agency for generations," Moffitt said. "We have a great appreciation for UPI's longstanding tradition of journalistic excellence and for the dedication of its employees."

De Borchgrave said News World approached UPI to discuss a possible deal at a time when he was trying to find a buyer for the news service, which had been owned by a consortium of six Saudi Arabian families since it was purchased out of bankruptcy for $3.95 million in 1992.

"They're looking for synergies," de Borchgrave said of News World Communications.

Moffitt said News World Communication's "advantages in production of unique, high-quality original content, worldwide news affiliates and developing technology can be leveraged to position UPI as a leading news provider in the coming decades."

The Washington Times Corp. publishes the Washington Times newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo, which is a Latin American newspaper published in 17 countries, Insight Magazine and The World and I monthly. News World also owns Atlantic Video and the Middle Eastern Times.

De Borchgrave began his journalism career with United Press in 1946 in London, then succeeded Walter Cronkite as manager of the UP bureau in Brussels, and then moved on to Newsweek magazine in 1950.

He praised the dedication of UPI's reporters and editors.

"The devotion of UPI's journalists is unmatched in the news business," he said. "I believe this agreement will provide them new opportunities to demonstrate their skill and independence in reporting the news."

UPI, which has won 10 Pulitzer Prizes over the years, continuously has provided global news coverage since its founding as United Press Associations in 1907 by newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps. United Press merged with William Randolph Hearst's International News Service to form United Press International in 1958.