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)

First of all, there are some issues that we are continuing to work through. To this point, the buyer of the radio station has ignored most of the terms of this contract. There were some debts that were to be assumed, that sixty days later have still not been paid. I am currently still owed money, as are two freelance employees. I have not had communication with the buyer, but others have, and they are getting frustrated. Also, the FCC database currently shows that nothing has been filed regarding this transaction.  

On your questions of mismanagement of the radio station. I did try to do everything right. This was the first business I had owned where we had significant debt, employees, etc. The first year (2012) was pretty challenging, and there were a lot of rookie mistakes that I made. However, there was never anything criminal or anything I did out of outright dishonesty. The first year of operation did leave me with some things that I was in the process of cleaning up when the decision was made to sell the station. My accountant and I worked through a good bit of it. 

Let's just sum it up by saying I have no future in accounting or bookkeeping. I learned some lessons. 

The buyer, Mike Wilkins, is someone who I've known most of my life. He purchased radio stations in Arkadelphia and Malvern in 2013, and we had originally looked at forming a partnership with my company to buy those stations. When that partnership didn't materialize, that relationship went south. I had confided in Mr. Wilkins during that process that I was still cleaning up some things at KEWI. In due diligence of the radio station, he had inspected our books, and had any information there was on the first year of business. 

Following my exit from any potential partnership, Mr. Wilkins turned very vindictive toward me. It seems that just about every week in talking to mutual acquaintances or my investors, there is a new rumor, or a new threat that is more often than not traced back to him. 

In December, Mr. Wilkins had a meeting with my investors behind my back, and presented his own analysis of our books, which was completely different than the one provided by my accountant. At the time, he was threatening a lawsuit, and basically told my investors that he would drop his claims if they would sell him my interest in the radio station. Because I had 52% ownership and was managing member, they would not have been able to oust me, and after meeting with the investors the decision was made to move on and turn away Mr. Wilkins offer.

At the time, I also had payment arrangements made with two freelance employees. At least one of those employees has told me that on the same day this closed door meeting took place, they were pressured by Andy Hodges to write my investors that they were concerned about the money owed to them. 

Upon further conversation with Jeremy Hutchinson, who is an attorney as well as our partner, a short time later I changed my mind and decided to sell my part of the station. While I could have fought the claims that were made against me, the station had begun to struggle, and I just felt that my relationship with my investors had been damaged by Wilkins to the point that it would be best for all parties involved to move on. 

Since then, the rumors and threats have continued. Never directly by Mr. Wilkins, but I continue to hear from other broadcasters and my investors about things that he has said, or that Andy Hodges has said. 

I have the utmost respect for Curtis Arnold and Jeremy Hutchinson. The shame of it is, I feel that we could have worked through any issue there was had it not been for Mr. Wilkins interference. Despite the fact that our business relationship is over, I still count them as friends. Senator Hutchinson has gone out of his way to try to help me and to make peace. He even continues to advertise with my new venture, which I appreciate. I have nothing bad to say about my investors. 

I was living my dream, and things were really starting to look up when I talked to Arkansas Business in February. It turned into my worst nightmare. I just wish to move on, and I wish my former business partners success. 

Thank you for affording me a response. 




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