WASHINGTON -- With only 24 hours left before it was to run out of cash, United Press International got a 10-day reprieve yesterday when a New York lawyer who is well connected politically put down $180,000 to evaluate buying the service.
The potential buyer is Leon H. Charney, who served as a special adviser to President Jimmy Carter at the Camp David peace talks and is the moderator of a current-affairs program, "The Leon Charney Report," on WNYC, a public television station in New York City.
Mr. Charney said that he was paying to keep UPI running through June 22 and that he would analyze the news service's assets and decide whether to make an offer.
Mr. Charney added that he would like to "take the mold of UPI and transform it into a high-tech communications company," one that might deliver news to homes. He also noted that UPI's library of photos and historic radio recordings was also a valuable asset and might "be merchandised to possibly offset the other side of the balance sheet."
Mr. Charney's last-minute entry came a day after the television evangelist Marion G. "Pat" Robertson withdrew his $6 million offer, a decision that left the bankrupt news service with only enough money to meet the payroll today.
Mr. Charney said he had not thought about a possible purchase until Wednesday, after Mr. Robertson's offer had collapsed, and he said he had no idea how much he might be willing to offer.
"This is basically a nonrefundable deposit," he said. "I haven't seen the books yet, and I have no idea what the assets are."
Mr. Charney said he did not know whether he would try to keep UPI running along its current lines, with news bureaus in every state and around the world. "It would be wonderful if you could do that, because it's been such a wonderful service," he said. "It depends on whether this is the wave of the future."
The executive editor of UPI, Steve Geimann, said he welcomed the new expression of interest. "I'm delighted that Mr. Charney has stepped forward and decided to take a look at UPI's assets and its operations," he said. "I look forward to talking to him and getting his ideas about UPI."
In addition to his television program, Mr. Charney said he had practiced as a lawyer for the theater industry.
Mr. Charney was credited by former President Carter as a behind-the-scenes adviser in the Camp David negotiations that led to a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. In 1985 Mr Charney wrote "Special Counsel," which was about his Camp David experience.
Mr. Charney also served briefly as a defense attorney for Jonathan Jay Pollard, who was convicted of giving U.S. secrets to Israel.