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UPI President Resigns

July 29, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pieter VanBennekom resigned as president and chief executive officer of United Press International Wednesday, one month after the 85-year-old American news service was sold to a Saudi-owned television network.

VanBennekom, who spent 23 years with UPI beginning as a reporter, will become senior vice president and managing editor of EastNet, a new agency that plans to cover business news of Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and China.

Steve Geimann, executive editor and vice president of UPI, said an international search would be conducted for a successor.

In the meantime, Geimann said, Robert Kennedy, deputy chief executive of the service’s new owner, London-based Middle East Broadcasting Centre, was acting as chief executive.

Asked if anyone else was leaving UPI management, Geimann said, ″Not at the moment. Nobody else has left. Nobody has been asked to leave.″

″Pieter did a terrific job for UPI,″ he said. ″It was many decisions, all of them difficult and many of them unpopular, that allowed UPI to stay in business.″

Middle East Broadcasting offered the successful bid for UPI at a bankruptcy court sale in New York June 23, and the transfer of ownership became effective June 29. The news service has lost money for 30 years and owes creditors about $60 million. It was the second time in a decade that it had been in bankruptcy reorganization.

″After spending two harrowing years trying to keep UPI afloat while we searched for a buyer, I told the new owners the day they concluded the purchase that I felt it was time for me to move on, and that they ought to put their own team in as quickly as possible,″ VanBennekom said.

″My own timing then became accelerated when the EastNet opportunity - which required that I be on board by Aug. 1 - came along,″ Van Bennekom said in a news release statement distributed by EastNet.

Geimann said VanBennekom told him of his plans Monday. VanBennekom was not at UPI Wednesday. Karen Kenyon, director of media relations for EastNet, said he would assume his new duties next week.

The announcement said EastNet plans to sell its service directly to corporate and media clients in the United States, Europe and the Far East.

It said the agency opened its first fulltime bureau in Ukraine on July 13 and expects to establish bureaus in the coming weeks in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia; Prague, Czechoslovakia; Warsaw, Poland; Budapest, Hungary, and Beijing.

The president and chief executive officer of EastNet is Milton R. Benjamin, also a former president of UPI.

At one time, UPI was the second largest American news agency, behind The Associated Press.