Pacific Lutheran University can’t have money people left to its former radio station in their wills, a court has said.
A legal tug-o-war for several known bequests and other potential ones ensued after the school sold the station, KPLU, in 2016.
The new owners and operators of the station, now KNKX, argued that the donors wanted to support their local public radio station, not the university.
Stephen Tan, chairman of the station’s board of directors, said the three known bequests are $8,000, $12,000 and one in excess of $100,000.
“They supported KPLU, because that’s the radio station that they listened to,” he said.
KNKX sued last month in King County Superior Court, and on Thursday, Commissioner Henry Judson said the station should get the money.
The order he signed gives Friends of 88.5 FM — the group that runs the station — the three bequests, as well as any others made to “KPLU.”
PLU argued the donors died before the sale of the station, and that the school spent more on the station in the interim than the bequests combined. The donated funds have yet to be distributed.
The university plans to ask a Superior Court judge to review the decision, said Andrea McNeely, one of the attorneys representing PLU.
“Certainly we’ll follow the ruling of the Superior Court judge,” she said. “... We are interested in honoring the intent of the bequestor.”
The nonprofit Friends of 88.5 FM bought the station — known for blues, jazz and National Public Radio news programs — for $8 million in 2016.
PLU had planned to sell to the University of Washington, but a public protest and fund-raising effort by the station’s supporters changed that plan.
Friends of 88.5 was created, and the schools agreed to let the group buy the station instead. That kept it from being absorbed into the UW station, KUOW — another NPR affiliate.
PLU argued that, between January and August 2016, when the sale was finalized, it spent more than $1 million on KPLU.
“The testators gave money to PLU to use to support KPLU,” the university wrote in one of its court filings. “That is exactly what has happened.”
A personal representative for one of the estates agreed with using the bequest to offset those costs, the school said.
The station argued the school’s attempt to collect the bequests went against the donors’ wishes, and violated the terms of the sale.
“... it was the station, not the university’s general fund, that the decedents bequests are intended to support,” the lawsuit states.
In addition to directing the bequests to the station, the court also ordered PLU to pay the station’s attorney fees.