Struggling all year to refinance more than $15B in debt, iHeart, which is led by original MTV (and then AOL) exec Bob Pittman, its proposal to restructure that debt and surrender more than 87% of the equity in the company was rejected. Creditors, led by mutual fund firm Franklin Resources, are pushing instead for greater control and one scenario would involve a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, according to an SEC filing Thursday.
The struggles follow the decision by CBS to sell off its radio unit. Last month, its deal closed with Entercom, which became the No. 2 radio operator as a result.
The moves show the rip currents destabilizing all forms of traditional media, from print publishing to broadcasting. With so much music available digitally (and often commercial free), radio is seen as a less essential part of consumers’ media diet, though it remains a superior tool for discovering artists, compared with streaming.
iHeart’s willingness to go to 87% is a departure from its stance in October, when it revealed a term sheet offering creditors more than 49% in the company’s overall radio business and 70% of iHeart’s stake in outdoor ad firm Clear Channel Outdoor. iHeart controls almost 90% of Clear Channel.
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