Reuters Report on UPI Radio Sale

Here's an Aug. 5, 1999, story by Reuters on the UPI Radio sale:

United Press International, the financially troubled 92-year-old wire service, plans to sell its radio division to devote more resources to the Internet, UPI president Arnaud de Borchgrave said Thursday.

"We're in the final stage of a negotiation. I hope to have some news in the next couple of hours," he said.

"We're moving into a totally different arena . . . This is where we are positioning UPI for the next century," de Borchgrave said.

De Borchgrave would not say with which company UPI is negotiating or how much the company is asking for its radio division. UPI has been losing money for decades and de Borchgrave said the sale would trim operating losses.

The Washington Post, citing industry analysts, reported that one of the companies most likely to bid for UPI's radio operations would be The Associated Press, a chief rival.

Officials at The AP were not available for comment.

UPI was a pioneer in the radio news business, beginning a news wire in the 1930s written in a format just to be used by broadcasters. In the 1960s, it added an audio service that provided audio feeds from newsmakers and UPI correspondents.

At its height in the early 1970s, UPI claimed more than 1,200 radio clients but the number dwindled to several hundred.

A former correspondent for Newsweek magazine and editor-in-chief of The Washington Times, de Borchgrave said when he took control of the news agency in December 1998 he planned to cut costs and overhaul UPI so the agency could evolve from a general interest news service into a profitable subscription newsletter service covering diplomacy, intelligence and political issues.

"We are not interested in producing conventional news, headlines every hour on the hour . . . it's very manpower intensive," de Borchgrave said.

In his eight-month tenure, de Borchgrave said he reduced monthly losses to "way below" $1 million from between $1 million and $2 million during the years prior to his arrival.

United Press was launched June 21, 1907, by newspaper magnate Edward Wyllis Scripps in part because he wanted a news agency to serve his afternoon dailies that the morning-paper oriented AP would not serve.

In May 1958 United Press merged with William Randolph Hearst's International News Service, known for its big-name correspondents, to form United Press International. But the merged service began losing money in 1962 and has run a deficit almost every year since.