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WLPO, WAJK, The Wolf all sold but will stay local

WLPO, WAJK and 96.5 The Wolf all will have a new owner.

La Salle County Broadcasting Corp. has a deal in place with a new entity, Starved Rock Media Inc., to take control of the three stations.

Catherine Miller, chairman of the board for La Salle County Broadcasting, confirmed this morning the Federal Communications Commission on Friday accepted the application for the sale of radio stations WLPO, WAJK and 96.5 the Wolf to Starved Rock Media.

The deal is pending because of federal regulation. By FCC rule, there is a 30-day window for the sale to be finalized.

John Spencer, president and owner of Starved Rock Media, Inc., said the two sides hope to close by Dec. 31. Programming, he emphasized, will be virtually unchanged.

“Very few, if any, changes will be noticed by the listener,” Spencer said.

The Miller family had owned and operated the stations for more than 70 years. Joyce McCullough joined the Miller family as part owner in the mid-1970s.

“Cathy and I were thrilled when Steve Vogler and John Spencer approached us last year about purchasing the stations and keeping them under local ownership,” McCullough said.

“Steve was a part of the station family since he was a teenager. John, who currently serves as vice-president of operations for the stations, has been with LCBC for almost 30 years. His and Steve’s passion for the industry and the communities we serve give Cathy and me peace of mind that the Miller legacy will continue. Unfortunately, Steve passed away recently. His legacy, too, lives on.”

“Steve would be thrilled to know his dream of keeping ‘his’ stations local is coming true,” Spencer added. “We have a fantastic team of individuals and we’re all looking forward to continue providing quality radio for Starved Rock Country for years to come.”

The pending sale ensures that the stations local listeners depend on for news, weather, sports, commentary and entertainment will remain locally controlled as they have been since the years following World War II.

The sale moved into high gear after Vogler’s passing on Oct. 1. Vogler had been chief engineer for La Salle County Broadcasting and a mainstay at the station headquarters for 52 years. Vogler’s estate was directed into a trust with a mandate of keeping the stations locally-owned.

“The radio stations were his life,” Spencer said, “and now will be his legacy.”

“We could think of no better candidate to oversee the operations than John Spencer,” McCullough said. “He’s been a familiar voice on the North Central Illinois airwaves and a constant presence at local fundraisers and Steve could have chosen no one better to oversee the broadcast operations.”

“When John emerged as a candidate to acquire the stations, a deal was reached swiftly and happily. The transition should be seamless for all concerned.”

Spencer agreed the stars aligned perfectly and facilitated a smooth and mutually-agreeable transfer.

“Joyce is a fantastic manager,” Spencer said, “and I want to thank Cathy and Joyce for all they did to ensure the stations stay locally owned.”

WLPO went on the air initially as a 250-watt non-directional daytime AM station and its reach was repeatedly expanded, most notably in 2013 when WLPO programming began being simulcast on FM103.9.

99.3 WAJK signed on as WLPO-FM in December 1964 as a 1000-watt monaural FM station. In 1979 the call letters were changed to WAJK.

WLWF (then WKOT) was added to the group in 1999 and is now 20-in-a-row country, 96.5 The Wolf.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or TCollins@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.

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