Pohlad: ‘We Have Decided to Exit The Radio Business’


The news first came via Twitter from the stations themselves. Then, the exclusive broker in this transaction — Kalil & Co. of Tucson — confirmed it.

A pair of FMs serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul market with Alternative and Hip-Hop, respectively, are being sold by Northern Lights Broadcasting parent The Pohlad Companies. The buyer? Chalk up another purchase for Educational Media Foundation, the No. 2 licensee of stations behind only iHeartMedia.

As first reported late Tuesday on RBR+TVBR’s Twitter feed, a contract has been signed and an application is being filed with the FCC for the transfer of radio stations KZGO-FM 95.3, a Class A licensed to St. Paul, and KQGO-FM 96.3, a Class C3 licensed to Edina, Minn., to the northeast of downtown Minneapolis and covering an upper-class area including towns such as Golden Valley, St. Louis Park and Brooklyn Park.

A Form 314 filing with the FCC has not yet been posted on the CDBS. As such, the value of the transaction is not yet publicly known.

Given the signals’ coverage areas, “GO 95.3” served younger listeners with “the modern evolution of Hip-Hop.” “GO 96.3,” while similarly branded, offers a quite different musical selection. The 7am hour ranged from 1990s era modern rock from Blur and Presidents of the United States of America to Cage the Elephant, Of Monsters and Men and The Head and the Heart. Musically, it is the market’s commercially licensed successor to the original “Cities 97,” which is presently a blend of Adult Contemporary and Adult Alternative music.

Both stations dismissed their respective air personalities on Tuesday and will continue to do so until the sale to Educational Media Foundation closes. This is expected in spring 2021. Until then, “a small number of Go Radio employees will be retained to assist with the business closure,” the company says. “All employees will be provided with transition support consistent with the Pohlad Companies philosophy.”

The Minneapolis-St. Paul market, ranked No. 15, is a competitive one, and public radio stations enjoy a considerable audience across the Twin Cities and surrounding communities. Alas, the “GO” twins, ultimately controlled by the company founded by the late Carl Pohlad, were challenged by deep-pocket competitors. For GO 95.3, a 250-watt FM translator with a near-similar coverage area owned by iHeartMedia, “HOT 102.5,” is a head-to-head programming choice with the popular Premiere Networks-syndicated show The Breakfast Club as its anchor. In the case of GO 96.3, Minnesota Public Radio’s KCMP-FM 89.3 “The Current,” a tastemaker Adult Alternative, proved to be the primary challenger.

As such, the end is near for both stations.

In a press release distributed at 7pm Eastern on Tuesday, Ben Hawn, Chief of Staff for Pohlad Companies, said, “We have decided to exit the radio business. We are deeply grateful to the talented team at Go Radio and proud of their engagement within our community. We also sincerely appreciate the loyal support of our audiences over the years.”

Once the radio stations are sold, Pohlad Companies’ businesses will be comprised of eight automotive dealers, jeweler JB Hudson, real estate brand United Properties, feature film production company River Road Entertainment (led by producer Bill Polhad), advanced production technology firm PAR Systems, commercial real estate owner and investor debt, equity, and loan servicing company NorthMarq and, most notably, the Minnesota Twins baseball club.

KZGO was acquired by Pohlad’s Northern Lights Broadcasting in September 2015. Then, it was KNOF-FM, offering a Christian-themed programming selection as “Praise FM.” It was sold by Praise Broadcasting for just under $8 million.

Ownership of KQGO dates to July 2007, when RBR+TVBR reported on its purchase by Northern Lights, led by James Pohlad and Steve Woodbury, who retired in 2012. The seller? Urban One predecessor Radio One, which earned $28 million from the divestment of what was KTTB-FM “B96” at the time of the transaction.

What are EMF’s plans for KZGO and KQGO?

It’s a safe bet that its Christian Contemporary “KLOVE” and Worship Music “Air1” networks will be placed on the stations, with Air1 perhaps taking the KZGO signal given its market heritage as a religious station.

For Air1, listeners can currently hear it on W225AP, an FM translator at 92.5 MHz, fed off of the Cities 97 HD2 signal.

KLOVE is heard in the market via the HD3 signal of KFXN-FM 100.3 in Minneapolis and on FM translators K260BA at 99.9 MHz in Coon Rapids, Minn., and K288GR at 105.5 MHz, covering a small part of the far eastern portion of the Twin Cities region.