By Bill Raack/Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis, MO – UTe Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has agreed to sell its classical music radio station in St. Louis, KFOU-FM, to a local Christian broadcaster.
The buyer is Gateway Creative Broadcasting - Joy FM - which owns two low-power radio stations in Potosi and Bowling Green, Missouri.
Kermit Brashear, who negotiated the $26 million deal for the LCMS board, denies accusations that he ignored interested buyers. He says he considered all viable offers.
"I'm sorry but we all know how a deal gets done and you have to make an offer and commit yourself. And that was never done. Period."
Brashear says the LCMS decided to sell KFUO after an evaluation of the church's assets. He says the station's value has declined considerably in recent years.
The executive director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra calls the pending sale of KFUO "tragic." Fred Bronstein says the LCMS can do what it wants with KFUO, which it owns. But he says the church appears to have ignored a community responsibility.
"This is a station that has been in existence for more than 60 years, it's been an important voice for arts and culture in St. Louis in a city that really cares about arts and culture," Bronstein said.
The Symphony has several broadcast agreements with KFUO, including a series of live concerts. Bronstein says officials have started exploring other outlets for those broadcasts.
Church leaders say they are investigating providing classical music to St. Louis on a digital channel or by transmitting the signal of another classical station into the area.
The sale must still be approved by federal regulators.