Clear Channel agrees to $18.7B buyout, will unload 448 stations

by ELIZABETH WHITE, Associated Press

Clear Channel Communications Inc, the biggest radio station owner in the United States, said Thursday it has agreed to be taken private for about $18.7 billion by an investment group.

Clear Channel said the deal calls for a group led by the investment firms Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital Partners LLC to pay $37.60 in cash for each share of Clear Channel common stock. That is a 10.2 per cent premium over its closing price on Wednesday.

The buyers are also assuming about $8 billion in debt in the deal.

Clear Channel announced in late October that its board of directors was evaluating "strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value.''

Analysts had said taking the company private could push shares toward a price of $37 to $40 each.

Clear Channel said the company's board of directors "with the interested directors recused," unanimously approved the merger agreement and is recommending shareholder approval. Lowry Mays is the company's chairman of the board and his two sons, Mark and Randall, are CEO and chief financial officer, respectively.

Analysts had said taking the company private could push shares toward a price of $37 to $40 each.

People familiar with the matter had expected at least two bids to be submitted as the deadline for offers passed earlier this week. Another bid had been expected from Providence Equity Partners, the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Clear Channel owns or operates 1,150 radio stations and is the largest operator of radio stations in the country.

It also owns a majority of Clear Channel Outdoor, the outdoor-advertising segment that sells billboard and bus-stop ads.

In a separate announcement Thursday, Clear Channel said it plans to sell 448 of its radio stations, all located outside the top 100 media markets in the U.S., and its 42-station television group.

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