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)

“This is one of several investments that we have made in the last two or three years,” Arnold said. “This was not a typical investment for us. We usually invest in stuff that’s more technology-focused. This did have a component of that through a website and social media, but it wasn’t a typical type investment.”

Because of the station’s proven track record, Arnold said, he didn’t expect the investment to be as risky as some of the previous ones he has backed.

“We thought this would be a little safer because the station had revenue before with Mr. Landers and Grant has had some experience, quite a bit in radio.”

He said his company typically invests between $20,000 and $60,000 in startups, but in this case it invested “more than we normally would.”

Hutchinson did not disclose how much he invested in the station.

At first, things were looking good. Merrill narrowed the station’s content, focusing on sports and local news.

But there were other changes made, and some changes that were promised didn’t happen.

For example, one of the stipulations of Arnold’s investment was that the station begin broadcasting on FM bands.

“That never happened,” Arnold said. “We didn’t keep a handle on the investment like we should have in terms of being actively involved.”

As months turned into years, the partners heard tales of late bills, bounced checks and unpaid employees, all while Merrill dodged communication on the issues.

Finally, this year, Hutchinson and Arnold swooped in to investigate the station’s financials. Arnold found that the station “had significant debt, a lot more than we realized. Part of that was that we didn’t keep tabs on it.”

He didn’t disclose the actual debt amount, but it was enough that the partners booted Merrill from his job. In February, Merrill left the station provided that Hutchinson sign a nondisclosure agreement regarding the station’s sale. A filing by KEWI with the Federal Communications Commission stated that the station didn’t have the revenue to continue operations and requested that it be silenced.

 

 

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