1999 New York Post on UPI

Here's a Dec. 5, 1999, story from the New York Post about the possible sale of UPI:


Canadian press baron Conrad Black is battling Lou Dobbs, the former CNN kingpin who is now running Space.com, to take over United Press International -- the once-mighty news service that has fallen on tough times. UPI insiders in the Washington office said the staff was told recently they were on the block and that Black and Dobbs were bidders.

"Those are the two suitors," one staffer said. "There has been no timetable -- nothing. I think they are keeping things secret because they don't want to spoil the deal."

In a sense, the battle to save UPI is shaping up as a classic, pitting a titan of the ink-on-paper world -- Black's Hollinger International -- against Dobbs, a pioneer on the electronic frontier who developed CNNfn and is now trying to build Space.com from scratch.

Hollinger owns the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph in London, the National Post in Canada and the Jerusalem Post.

At various times, Black has tried to establish a toehold in the Big Apple. This year, Black tried to buy Arthur Carter's weekly New York Observer, but the talks collapsed at the 11th hour. In the early '90s, after the Daily News went into bankruptcy, Black lost out to real estate developer Mort Zuckerman in an ownership battle.

Although severely downsized in recent years, UPI is still a brand name in news and still counts Helen Thomas -- who has covered every American president going back to Dwight Eisenhower -- as its White House bureau chief. Since 1992, the company has been owned by ARA Group, a London-based Saudi Arabian investment group that bought the company out of bankruptcy for $3.9 million.

When UPI had mostly daily newspaper customers, it competed cheek to jowl with the Associated Press for scoops and photos from around the world.

Over the years, it lost the newspaper battle to AP and started focusing primarily on its radio clients. But last summer, it abandoned that focus as well and sold its radio client list to its archrival.

Instead, UPI began putting its emphasis mainly on providing news to Internet customers. One of its biggest clients is the portal Excite.com.

Black was traveling overseas and couldn't be reached. Tracy Krumme, director of investor relations for Hollinger, said the company doesn't comment on rumors.