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USA radio giant iHeartMedia files for bankruptcy

16 March 2018

The company has long argued that were it not for its debt payments, it would be a profitable group.

Billboard giant Clear Channel's owner IHeart Media (mainly a radio operator in the US) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the USA, drowned by over $20bn of debt it incurred in a private equity buyout around the time of the financial crisis of 2007. Aided by a relaxed federal regulations, Clear Channel's founding Mays family led the firm through a radio-station buying spree in the '90s and early 2000s, at one point controlling 1,100 properties. The equity holders would keep 5.25% of the company.

It is also the latest and most high-profile shift in the tumultuous radio business, which has struggled to retain advertising dollars and compete with streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora.

The holding company of iHeartRadio Inc. is the biggest operator of radio stations in the U.S and Canada. Last year, CBS Radio, after announcing its intention to exit the business, merged its stations with the much smaller Entercom Communications.

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The company had 14,300 employees at the end of 2016, according to its most recent annual report. On Monday, the pink sheet stock closed at 48 cents.

The company's terrestrial stations, it says, reach 271 million people each month, and in many markets it operates multiple outlets.

iHeart has filed a series of motions with the bankruptcy court seeking to maintain business-as-usual operations and uphold its commitments to employees and other stakeholders during the process.

iHeartMedia has been crippled by piles of debt for many years.

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The San Antonia based iHeartMedia bills themselves as a multi-platform media company, and are best known for operation over 850 radio stations.

Their lawyer said at Thursday's hearing they plan to file a lawsuit to challenge the contention that they are low-priority unsecured creditors, and Isgur said he wanted a hearing on that dispute before April.

Ben Sisario is a New York Times writer.

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USA radio giant iHeartMedia files for bankruptcy