1992 AP Reuters Story on Pat Robertson and UPI

Here's a May 12, 1992, profile of Pat Robertson and UPI:


RUTLAND, Vt. -- U.S. Media Corp., a company controlled by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, bid $6 million in cash for bankrupt United Press International Tuesday.

The bid came at a bankruptcy court hearing to decide whether the wire service would be sold to the highest bidder or broken up and sold piecemeal to pay off its huge debts.

Robertson's U.S. Media operates the Family Cable Channel and a domestic radio network.

Other bidders at the court-ordered auction made bids only for small pieces of UPI. They included Washington-based Federal News Service, which bid for UPI's Spanish-language news wire and its Washington daybook for a total of $55,000.

Eastnet, a news organization based in eastern Europe, bid $30,000 for certain leases of UPI in the former Soviet Union, eastern Europe and China. A publisher bid a total of $125,000 for certain assets, including $25,000 for the UPI name.

The 85-year-old UPI sought an expedited auction to hasten its future. Once one of the world's premier news agencies, UPI filed for bankruptcy protection in 1991.

Judge Francis Conrad, who has overseen many high-profile reorganizations including disgraced Wall Street brokerage Drexel Burnham Lambert, presided over the hearing.

Conrad normally sits in Rutland but spends two weeks a month hearing cases in New York, where he was assigned the UPI case.

In an informal news conference, Robertson said his religious background would not mean he would interfere in the editorial decisions of the news agency.

He said his interest in UPI included, but was not limited to, its overseas news-gathering operation and its U.S. radio network.

Robertson is perhaps best known as the one-time host of the syndicated television program "The 700 Club." He also sought the Republication nomination for president in 1988.

An attorney for U.S. Media said the offer was all cash and had no conditions, but was contingent on a rapid settlement that he said could be done within 30 days.

Before the mid-afternoon hearing began, tension gripped UPI's Washington headquarters.

Callers to UPI's main number heard a telephone company message that the number was no longer in service. A UPI official said it was a technical problem but had no details.

In the newsroom, a dozen or so reporters were hunched over computer keyboards putting out the day's news.

UPI managing editor Robert Kieckhefer said he had expected "quite a few bids" for the wire service.

"We still have a lot of clients, a lot of people who recognize the name of UPI as a valuable worldwide news-gathering and distribution source," he said.

UPI has undergone numerous ownership changes and management upheavals since the 1980s as its client base has dwindled.

But its name and reputation may tempt a would-be press baron who wants instant entry into the competitive business now dominated by the Associated Press and Reuters.

In another development, UPI's largest client, Kyodo News Service of Japan, became the latest defector. Hideaki Sakamoto, Kyodo's New York bureau chief, said the agency suspended its contract last week and would decide to resume based on UPI remaining a viable independent news agency.

Sakamoto said he did not think Kyodo, which is a not-for-profit cooperative like the AP, would bid for UPI.

UPI was founded as United Press in 1907 by publisher E.W. Scripps and got its current name in a 1958 merger with the International News Service.

Its correspondents and photographers have earned nine Pulitzer Prizes and many other major journalism awards, and the agency was the training ground for some of the world's most-respected journalists.

The agency first filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1985 and emerged in a reorganized form in 1986, only to file again in August 1991.

At the time UPI listed $22 million in assets and $65 million in liabilities. It said it had 586 employees staffing 140 bureaus in 90 countries, serving 2,500 media outlets.

UPI has estimated its losses at $100,000 a month. At a March 4 hearing, Conrad opened the doors for the news agency's creditors to propose a reorganization plan of their own.

On April 28, Conrad authorized the forced sale. The order was made a day after UPI asked for an auction by mid-May, saying it would not be able to meet its payroll at that time.

UPI's current parent, Infotechnology Inc., withdrew financial support from the wire service in October 1990 and itself filed for bankruptcy in early 1991.

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