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Morgantown radio station sale may raise FCC questions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a market dominated by West Virginia Radio Corp. stations, news that Morgantown radio stations WCLG AM and FM are being sold is drawing attention.

The stations, locally owned by Bowers Broadcasting, are to be sold to an entity called AJG Corp. -- if the Federal Communications Commission approves the sale.

That could be critical, since FCC rules restrict the number of radio stations any one company may own in a market. If AJG Corp. had not been spun off from West Virginia Radio Corp. -- owned by Morgantown businessman and frequent political candidate John Raese -- then the original company might not meet those restrictions.

In a market the size of Morgantown-Clarksburg, the FCC ownership limit is seven commercial stations, with no more than four in either AM or FM.

Incorporated in 2007, AJG operates three former West Virginia Radio Corp. stations: WKKW-FM in Fairmont, WFGM-FM in Barrackville, and WFBY-FM in Weston. If AJG bought WCLG-FM, it would have four FM stations in the market.

However, business filings with the Secretary of State's Office and FCC records show that, at the very least, AJG is closely aligned with West Virginia Radio Corp.:

* AJG's office address, according to business filings with the Secretary of State's Office, is 1251 Earl Core Road in Morgantown -- the same address as West Virginia Radio Corp. offices and Morgantown radio stations, and also the location of the Dominion Post newspaper, owned by the Raese family.

(FCC records list AJG's office address as 279 June Road, Stamford, Conn. A search on the real estate site Zillo shows that address is a private residence, with an estimated market value of $2.69 million.)

* Vice president and general manager of AJG is Jack Murphy Jr., who used to be sales manager for West Virginia Radio Corp. The contact number listed for Murphy at AJG is the same as the main number for the WVRC business office.

On Wednesday evening, Murphy referred questions to the company's law firm, Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth of Arlington, Va.

* The agent of process for both AJG and West Virginia Radio is James M. Troy, according to the business filings. Troy also is vice president and CEO of Greer Industries, West Virginia Radio and the West Virginia Newspaper Publishing Co., which publishes the Dominion Post.

* The president of AJG is Lauren M. Kelley of Stamford, Conn. Kelly is also trustee of Descendants Trust, a trust fund set up by John Raese and his brother, Dominion Post Publisher David Raese, for the benefit of their children.

According to the FCC ownership report for AJG, assets in the trust include radio stations WKKW, WFGM and WFBY.

The filing notes, "Ownership of the licensee [AJG] is divided equally between the two trusts, each of which is voted on by Lauren Kelley."

The telephone number listed for Kelley in the FCC ownership report was not in service. Kelley did not respond to an email inquiry.

* Kelley replaced Dale Miller as AJG president in December 2008, according to records with the Secretary of State's Office. Miller is the longtime president of West Virginia Radio.

The 2008 filing also indicates that John and David Raese were removed as directors of AJG at that time. The Raeses remain as directors of West Virginia Radio, according to business filings.

* The latest annual report for AJG, filed May 15 with the Secretary of State's Office, lists the company email address as Simpson@GreerIndustries.com. The 2013 annual report for West Virginia Radio, also filed on May 15, lists the identical company email address.

* Although licensed to their respective cities (Fairmont and Barrackville), WKKW and WFGM operate out of West Virginia Radio's headquarters on Earl Core Road, along with West Virginia Radio affiliates WAJR-AM and WVAQ-FM. WKKW and WFGM websites also list Earl Core Road in Morgantown as their office address.

The other AJG affiliate, WFBY-FM Weston, lists its office address as 1065 Radio Park Road, Mount Clare, an unincorporated area south of Clarksburg in Harrison County. West Virginia Radio affiliate WWLW-FM Fairmont lists the same address for its office.

* According to its annual report, AJG has only 16 employees, or barely more than five employees per station. WVRC has 65 employees, according to its annual report.

* AJG stands for Agnes Jane Greer, the matriarch of the Greer empire, who incorporated West Virginia Radio Corp. in 1940. (The call letters of the company's flagship station, WAJR, are her initials before she was married.)

FCC spokeswoman Janice Wise said she could not discuss specific market ownership issues, including any pending sales of stations.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220. 


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