Clear Channel, the nation’s largest radio station operator and an outdoor billboard company, last year became the biggest leveraged buyout ever in the media business, after it was taken private by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital.
Now its revenues are plunging and so is its cash flow, making it harder to meet the payments on the billions in debt accumulated in the process of buying out its public investors. If it violates some of its loan agreements, those interest payments rise sharply.
Scott Sperling, a president of Thomas H. Lee Partners, offered reassuring words about the company’s future in an interview on CNBC in mid-April.
“We do not have any expectation of an imminent blowup,” he said, adding that the company still had “a lot of levers it can pull to continue to generate reasonable cash flow.”
But days later, Clear Channel announced that revenue plummeted 23 percent in the first quarter and cash flow fell by 47 percent.
On Wednesday, the company announced it was laying off 590 employees after cutting 1,850 employees in January, for an overall staff reduction of 12 percent since the acquisition.
Bishop Cheen, who follows corporate bonds for Wachovia, wrote recently that Clear Channel was on track to become the biggest default among media companies and therefore the biggest workout ever in the industry.
Why should you care?
Because Clear Channel is media giant that brings Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Dr Laura to your AM radio dial.
Such a shame. Couldn't happen to a nicer multi-billion dollar media conglomerate.