More Clear Channel changes ahead

Alisa Roth Nov 16, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: No auctioneer’s gavel actually fell today, but the bidding for Clear Channel did come to an end this morning. Two private-equity groups will buy the media company and take it private. Clear Channel’s had some tough times of late. A falling stock price and lots of debt. But, Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports from New York, old media is still attractive.

ALISA ROTH: Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee are heading the group of investors that will buy Clear Channel for almost $19 billion. The new owners will also take on about $8 billion in debt.

It’s not an obvious time to be buying a commercial radio company. These businesses been facing a lot of competition from the likes of satellite radio and the Internet. Media analyst Frederick Moran says today’s deal is an encouraging sign.

FREDERICK MORAN: To make such a dramatic and sizeable transaction shows that these companies believe that radio players like Clear Channel can continue to produce very strong and sustainable cash flow.

Clear Channel also says it’s selling off all of its TV channels and around a third of its radio stations. Nobody’s saying what’ll happen to the rest of Clear Channel in the future. It’S possible the private equity firms will take it public again.

That doesn’t mean listeners should expect a major shift in format. Jim Goss is a media analyst with Barrington Research.

JIM GOSS: Radio companies are focused on delivering what they feel their target market is going to want to hear so that they can appeal to the widest and largest numbers of listeners in a specific demographic and then sell ads against that demographic.

It’s less obvious what’ll happen to the company’s subsidiary, Clear Channel Outdoor. A French firm said today it’s interested in buying the billboard company.

There’s also speculation it could go private or just be spun off.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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