University of Washington files to transfer KEXP license to friends group

By Andrew Lapin

The University of Washington is transferring ownership of Seattle noncom Triple A station KEXP to a nonprofit group, the Friends of KEXP.

University officials suggested the transition during a recent round of license negotiations and amid the station’s $15 million capital campaign to build a new headquarters at the downtown Seattle Center. The university applied to the FCC the week of June 16 to transfer the license.

The change in management comes 13 years after KEXP management created the Friends of KEXP nonprofit and entered into an operating agreement with the university. “The vision back then was all about the station coming into its own,” KEXP Station Director Tom Mara wrote in an email.

With an increase in tech support from UW and significant backing from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the station achieved positive net income starting in the mid-2000s, according to Mara. When KEXP began conversations with UW months ago about a change, both parties saw advantages in a full transition to the friends group. The university could become free of costs involved with owning the station license, while KEXP could take on more responsibility.

“Also, because we are in the middle of a $15 million capital campaign, we felt our donors would appreciate the move,” Mara said. “This wasn’t about departure; it was about building an even stronger long-term relationship.”

KEXP expects to break ground on its new headquarters in late 2014 or early 2015 and move in by early 2016. The space will include areas for community gatherings, live performances and DJ sessions, as well as an artist’s lounge and a music library more than twice the size of the station’s current one.

As part of the transfer agreement, KEXP will provide the university with $400,000 annually in on-air announcements and online advertising for 10 years.

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