By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Tom Palen wants to put the rumors to rest. Yes, he sold KLEE and KOTM.
The way he sees it, selling the stations to Ottumwa Radio was the best way to preserve his family’s legacy while still moving on. The on-air cast will stay the same, Palen included, and events like the Klee Klue Kleeshays will stay the same.
“Ottumwa is a neat town. Melissa [Palen’s wife] and I like Ottumwa very much. But I have been here my entire adult life. We want to go out and explore new things and try new things,” Palen said.
The decision didn’t come easily. It does mean letting go. Palen’s father ran KBIZ and KTVO from 1966 to 1969. His purchase of KLEE came in 1975, and the station has been in the family’s hands ever since.
“I started there part time in 1978,” said Palen. The full-time gig came in 1983.
The sale means Ottumwa Radio will hold six stations: the two Palen is selling and four (KBIZ, KTWA, KRKN and KKSI) it already owns. Palen believes the company shares his belief that local radio has a place amid a dial increasingly crowded by corporate blandness.
Selling the stations wasn’t a quick decision. Palen describes them as taking place “on and off for quite some time.” He wanted to make sure the stations continued to reflect the community and serve their listeners, and believes this deal will accomplish that goal. The final papers were signed Christmas Eve.
Some changes are coming, though they’re changes that were in the pipeline before the sale. The Cardinals will stay on the same station. The Cubs might be coming, though that’s farther down the road. The station’s talent competition will remain in place and planning is already well underway.
Palen declined to discuss financial terms for the deal, but FCC paperwork indicates a sale price of $794,000. It usually takes about three months for such sales to clear federal regulators.
It’s not clear what will come next for Palen. He said he and his wife enjoy snow, so a northern location seems possible, but that’s not decided. It doesn’t have to be yet.
“For the most part listeners won’t even know a change has happened,” he said.
And that’s very much how he wants it.