Corporate Finance

iHeartMedia Files Bankruptcy to Cut Debt Load

America's largest radio station owner says "business realities" forced it into Chapter 11 despite its "impressive operating business."
Matthew HellerMarch 15, 2018

iHeartMedia, America’s largest radio station owner, has filed bankruptcy to reduce a debt load of more than $20 billion as it competes with digital media for advertising dollars and listeners.

The Chapter 11 petition of the parent of iHeartRadio comes only four months after its closest rival, Cumulus Media, also filed bankruptcy to restructure its balance sheet.

iHeartMedia said its operating business was healthy, with year-over-year revenue growth in each of the last 18 consecutive quarters, but “business realities” required a “more comprehensive restructuring transaction” than the various financing measures it has taken in recent years to address the massive debt load it took on from a 2008 leveraged buyout.

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A restructuring agreement filed with the Chapter 11 petition would reduce iHeartMedia’s debt by more than $10 billion.

“The agreement … allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure,” iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman said in a news release. “Achieving a capital structure that finally matches our impressive operating business will further enhance iHeartMedia’s position as America’s #1 audio company.”

iHeartMedia, which owns more than 850 radio stations, had warned in May 2017 that it might not be able to continue as a going concern. On Feb. 1, it announced it had skipped a $106 million coupon payment on debt that matures in 2021.

“The heavy debt burden became unsustainable during the persistent long-term secular decline of the radio broadcasting business,” analyst Sharon Bonelli of Fitch Ratings told CNN Money.

In court papers, iHeartMedia Treasurer Brian Coleman said the company had “encountered significant and unexpected macroeconomic and industry-specific headwinds” that limited its ability to generate cash flows, grow businesses, and satisfy its debt obligations.

He cited the “new and intense competition from the rapidly-growing internet and digital advertising industry and the entry of on-demand streaming services, both of which siphoned off the share of advertiser revenues allocated by agencies and brands to broadcast radio.”

The $24 billion buyout of what was then known as Clear Channel Communications was led by private-equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.