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Spilman: 'Blindsided' by KRCQ sale to Leightons

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You've read the story in the newspaper. You've heard the rumors around town -- now, Here's The Rest of The Story.

On March 1, Detroit Lakes Broadcasting, Inc. (Ken Buehler) sold KRCQ Radio to Lake Lida Broadcasting (Chris Bernier).

Earlier in 2009, Spilman Broadcasting Inc. (Bob Spilman) had filed foreclosure papers on Detroit Lakes Broadcasting, Inc. (Ken Buehler) due to a default on the financing contract it had with Spilman Broadcasting, Inc.

However, Detroit Lakes Broadcasting, Inc. (Buehler) was able to locate a buyer, Lake Lida Broadcasting, Inc. (Chris Bernier) for the radio station before the foreclosure was finalized. All papers were signed that day, March 1, and it was a done deal.

On Tuesday, March 2 at 8:30 a.m., Chris Bernier came into my office. Thirty seconds later he introduced Bob Leighton and Denny Neiss (Leighton Broadcasting) and announced that Lake Lida Broadcasting had sold KRCQ Radio to Leighton Broadcasting and that they would take over the operation of KRCQ Radio immediately.

Everyone knew that neither I nor Ken Buehler would ever sell KRCQ Radio to the Leightons, so they had to find someone who would front for them. Chris Bernier and Lake Lida Broadcasting was the Trojan Horse.

Ken Buehler assures me that had he known that his buyer (Bernier) was actually fronting for someone else, he would not have agreed to sell KRCQ to him.

A few minutes after the meeting began, Chris Bernier said: "Bob, you have two choices. You can either go along with this and go to work for them -- or you can call your radio career a wrap."

Having said that, he left my office and then left the building a short time later. Before Denny Neiss left my office he said:

"Bob -- it's only business."

Joyce (my wife) wanted to retire anyway, so she was done that day.

Having been blindsided by what had just transpired, and without an acceptable offer to continue my role as General Manager at KRCQ Radio as I had been for the entire 16 years since the day it went on the air, I was out of a job after 45-plus years in radio in Detroit Lakes.

Retiring this way was not how I thought my radio career would end. I had really hoped to complete 50 years in radio in Detroit Lakes. I would have been flattered if Jim Ingstad (KFGO Fargo Group) or Lou Buron (Bemidji-Brainerd Alexandria-Wadena Radio Group), both of whom are highly successful broadcasters, had purchased KRCQ Radio.

It would have been fun completing my radio career working for either of these great groups.

Over the past several weeks I have received many phone calls, cards and in-person conversations that have been very much appreciated.

Dennis Pausch of Radio Shack said it best. He said: "Bob, they paid you the ultimate compliment -- they had to have your radio station!"

There is satisfaction in knowing that what you have done is sought after by so many others no matter how they go about getting it.

What's most important to me, though, is to thank those who helped me in building the most successful radio station Detroit Lakes has ever had, the hundreds of clients who believed in me and who let me help them grow their business, the many thousands of listeners in our wide listening area who found their favorite radio station and in turn made 102.3 FM the most popular station in the Detroit Lakes area.

Their calls, letters and personal comments helped me know that we were doing the right things in meeting our FCC license obligation: serving in the public interest.

Also to the staff, for all the loyalty of those who worked for me and with me and who saw my vision and who helped me live my dream. I can't thank them enough!

Over these past 45 years, many radio opportunities out of the Detroit Lakes area came my way. I turned them all down. When I came to Detroit Lakes in 1964, I had planned on staying here for one year and then moving on.

In that first year I met my wife, Joyce (married now 44 years) and learned that Detroit Lakes was a great place to live. It didn't take me long to determine that you don't move from Detroit Lakes -- you move to Detroit Lakes.

All the great memories over all these years are what's important to me. And I have been thankful to have been able to enjoy them with a great group of people and even though I might not be in radio -- I truly believe the best is yet to come.

Now, you know the rest of the story.

A sincere ... thank you. -- Bob Spilman, Detroit Lakes

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