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Published September 19 2012

New KFGO owner: We won’t mess with success

FARGO – The last time an out-of-state company bought KFGO wasn’t exactly a high point for the area’s top-rated radio station.

Jobs were cut, longtime favorites “Jack and Sandy” were booted, and listeners bemoaned the erosion of the station’s “live and local” mantra before Fargo’s Jim Ingstad bought it back.

The station’s newest owner – a family-run Wisconsin company – says fans need not worry about a repeat performance.

“They’re doing well, and when they’re doing well, you don’t monkey around with it,” said Duke Wright, president and chief executive of Midwest Communications. “We don’t see any big changes.”

Midwest announced a deal Tuesday to buy KFGO and five other local stations from Ingstad, who had owned them since 2006.

The company, which owns 47 radio stations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and three other states, expects to take over operations late this year, pending Federal Communications Commission approval.

Wright, whose family owns and runs Midwest, said in an interview Wednesday that he’s had an interest in North Dakota stations for some time. His wife is from Lisbon, and he’s visited the state regularly over the years.

“I’ve always kind of had my eye on the market,” he said.

He said the company has a history of loyalty and commitment to local programming.

“Our philosophy and our operating style is far different than a company like Clear Channel,” he said, referring to the Texas-based media giant Clear Channel Communications that owned KFGO from 2000 to 2006.

Wright declined to say how much Midwest paid for the stations, citing Ingstad’s request to keep the terms confidential.

This is the second time Ingstad has sold the stations. He originally bought them in 1998 and sold them to Clear Channel two years later, only to buy them back yet again in 2006.

He made out handsomely in the process, selling the stations for $46.5 million and buying them back for $14 million.

Ingstad couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Joel Heitkamp, operations manager for Radio Fargo-Moorhead, said he was glad to hear of Midwest’s local focus.

“That to me is what I wanted to hear from Jim Ingstad so bad,” Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp said he found out about the sale Tuesday not long before the news broke and doesn’t yet know the details of what might change.

“I think we have to be realistic,” he said. “With any new ownership, some things are going to change, and not all of that is necessarily negative.”

KFGO first went on the air in 1948. It has changed hands a half-dozen times since then.

The other stations in the sale are BOB 95 FM, Y94 FM, 104.7 Popster FM, 101.9 Talk FM, and 740 The FAN.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502