What Happened to Saline County's Only Radio Station KEWI-AM?

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 12:00 am  

“We tried to work everything out,” said Grant Merrill, who purchased KEWI-AM in 2011. In February, he left the station, and it was silenced. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

(Editor's Note: Grant Merrill offerred little comment for this story. But after the story went to press, he emailed us a more detailed response. We have included it in full at the end of the story.) 

In 2011, Grant Merrill bought KEWI-AM, 690, in Benton: Saline County’s only functioning radio station. Before he owned it, the station had run stably for years, but three years after his purchase, it’s closed and silent.

Merrill has been known as an up-and-coming radio businessman. In 2009, he was profiled in Arkansas Business’ “20 in Their 20s” feature. At that time, he was general manager of KUOA-FM, 105.3, The Hog Sports Radio, in Springdale.

So what happened?

Before Merrill owned KEWI, it was operated by Arkansas radio veteran Jim Landers. Landers, 79, started working at the same station in ninth grade when it was KBBA-AM.

Landers bought the station in 1994 and operated it for nearly two decades.

“It was in the red and we put it in the black,” he said. “It was in the black for 17 years.”

But after those 17 years, Landers was hoping to retire. He began searching for someone to succeed him at the station.

That’s when he met Merrill.

“He came in and I was talking to him about him buying the station, and I was interested in selling it,” Landers said.

So that’s what happened. Landers sold the station to Merrill in 2011 for a price he declined to disclose. Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, helped Merrill make the investment by becoming a silent partner in the property, and Arkansas Tech Angels, a company that invests in startups, also lent some money.

Arkansas Tech Angels is co-owned by Curtis Arnold, a Little Rock resident and founder of CardRatings.com.



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