A local nonprofit group is the new owner of one of the largest classical radio stations in the United States.
Santa Barbara Foundation is in the process of finalizing the purchase of KDB radio station after waiting two years for while UCSB failed to raise enough money to purchase it. The current owners are donating or selling their shares in the company to SBF along with the money to purchase remaining shares in an attempt to retain the station’s all-classical format.
“It feels really good to be involved with Santa Barbara Foundation. I think it’s the perfect group to have KDB and preserve classical music,” Roby Scott, shareholder and KDB director, said.
Michael Towbes, local businessman and philanthropist, donated an undisclosed amount of money to SBF to fund the rest of the purchase. Seven shareholders – Michael Towbes, David and Lyn Anderson, Barry and Jean Schuyler, and Bob and Roby Scott – who collectively own about 75 percent of the company, donated part or all of their stock to the foundation. Towbes’ donation will cover the cost of purchasing the remaining shares.
“Some shareholders donated all their shares, some only sold part and others couldn’t afford to donate their shares and are selling them to the foundation,” Roby Scott said.
For several years prior to the purchase of the station by its current owners, KDB sought a buyer due to financial troubles. The university considered purchasing it in 1999, but failed to raise enough funds.
The current owners bought the majority stock of KDB on Oct. 31, 2000 in a last-ditch effort to prevent the station’s sale to a corporate radio group and preserve the station’s classical programming. KDB is one of only about 30 radio stations in the U.S. with a classical-only format.
The group planned to sell the station to UCSB, but the university’s attempt to raise the funds again came up short of the estimated $3.25 million price tag. The university’s most recent attempt ended in winter last year after the university raised only about $321,000. They released KDB’s owners from an agreement to sell to the university in August, allowing KDB to seek other potential buyers. The university had pledged to keep the station’s classical format.
Towbes, Anderson and Schulyer – all current or former trustees of the foundation and majority shareholders in the radio station – suggested the foundation purchase KDB, Chuck Slosser, SBF president, said.
The Santa Barbara Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1928 to “enrich the lives of the people of Santa Barbara County through philanthropy.” The foundation is currently worth $145 million, and its board of trustees has donated about $60 million to needy community groups and individuals since its inception.
This is not the first time a nonprofit group has purchased a classical-format radio station. There are at least two other stations nationally, KING FM in Seattle, Wash. -owned by Beethoven, a nonprofit corporation – and WCLV FM in Cleveland, Ohio – owned by the Cleveland Foundation.
The total cost of purchasing the station is somewhere between $4 and $6 million, but the exact figure won’t be clear until a financial appraisal is done in the next few months. The transaction won’t deplete SBF funds because the current shareholders donated everything and the station will remain self-sufficient. The group is in the process of transferring the shares and the deal won’t be sealed until the Federal Communications Commission approves the sale sometime in the next two months.
“The one thing we had to be sure of is that the station will not interfere with the regular operations of the foundation,” Slosser said. “We would not have purchased the station if it would have been a drain on those resources.”
While the foundation has no plans to sell the station, KDB will not be able to depend on SBF funding in financial dry spells.
“We will own the station as long as it is a viable business and continues to be profitable or at least break even,” Slosser said.
The format of the station is not expected to alter after it changes hands, and current directors Scott and his father Bob, will stay on as directors.
“It is our hope that the listeners will not notice any change between the current ownership and our ownership,” Slosser said. “We hope it will be a seamless transition.”