The net worth of the JPR Foundation's assets may drop to zero because of its recent agreement with Southern Oregon University, Jefferson Public Radio's ousted executive director asserts.
"It basically doesn't have any money," said Ron Kramer, who was terminated effective June 30.
Kramer made his assessment after reviewing a six-page agreement reached between SOU and the JPR Foundation, which was announced Monday. Without assets, the foundation will be hard-pressed to take on projects such as the remodeling of the Holly Theatre in Medford, Kramer said. Even more dubious is an effort to build new JPR headquarters at Jefferson Square on 10th Street, he said.
JPR Executive Director Paul Westhelle said it's true the assets of the foundation will be significantly reduced — but they will be partly shifted into Jefferson Live!, which eventually will own the Holly Theatre, Jefferson Square and the Cascade Theatre in Redding, Calif.
After taking out the debt on these various buildings, Westhelle said the net worth of Jefferson Live! could total more than $5 million.
"It would have plenty of assets," he said.
Other assets owned by the foundation, such as radio station licenses, would be shifted to Southern Oregon University for the benefit of JPR, he said.
As a result, the foundation would become something of a money manager, raising funds for the radio stations while coordinating with Jefferson Live! on separate cultural projects that would benefit the community, such as the Holly, he said.
Westhelle, who helped coordinate the effort to remodel the Cascade Theatre, said he hopes that fundraising efforts on the Holly could yield significant progress in pushing forward with that project in about a year.
The SOU and JPR Foundation deal gives SOU control over all 22 radio stations.
The agreement also provides a framework for selling off radio station licenses in the future, with the proceeds benefitting JPR.
Westhelle said selling off a radio station would make sense only if there is a duplication of service. As an example, he said a new JPR station in Coos Bay offers broader coverage than smaller stations that serve the same area.
Westhelle said no plans exist at the moment to sell off any radio stations.
Much of the new agreement looks similar to an earlier version that prompted public outcry, resulting in intervention by Gov. John Kitzhaber.
The new agreement differs in that it allows an autonomous board of directors to run the foundation and offers the possibility that Jefferson Live! could own the Cascade. However, the university would exercise more oversight over the foundation under the new agreement.
"From my standpoint, there is no meaningful or discernible difference between the settlement agreement announced yesterday and the settlement agreement of June 9," Kramer said Tuesday.
Kramer said the creation of Jefferson Live! and the separation of the administration of the foundation and radio stations could add another $500,000 to the $3.5 million Holly restoration project.
Westhelle said he couldn't understand where Kramer got that number, but said that taking on the Holly and Jefferson Square projects would require extra staff — something that has already been taken into account.
JPR Foundation board president Steve Nelson said he is still not completely clear how assets will be transferred from the foundation to the other entities, saying it is part of ongoing discussions.
He said about $2,000 in operating expenses will be left in the foundation's account after it takes on the hiring of a new executive director, administrative staff and setting up separate offices.
But how the foundation will parlay its resources to finance the Holly and Jefferson Square is something that is still being worked out.
"It's not going to be easy in some spots," he said.
He said officials have considered a number of financial scenarios that would allow Jefferson Live! to take over the Cascade Theatre, which is now owned by Southern Oregon University.
Nelson said his goal is to re-energize the fundraising campaign for the Holly and to make sure the central mission of JPR succeeds.
"No one wants radio to fail," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.