Buyers circle Clear Channel

Radio giants seeks to exit public market

NEW YORK — Shares in Clear Channel Communications popped nearly 10% Thursday after the radio giant confirmed it is seeking a buyout amid reports that several private equity firms are circling.

The nation’s largest owner of radio stations has battled a slumping advertising climate for several years and tried to juice demand by cutting the number of spots it airs per hour.

Now, it appears the radio giant is going the way of other low-growth media and seeking to exit the harsh glare of the public markets. Goldman Sachs is handling the sales process.

Cablers Cox and Insight took themselves private after growth slowed over the past few years; broadcasters Emmis and Tribune are looking to do the same.

CBS has coped with its slumping radio division by selling off smaller stations and focusing on its biggest markets.

For two years Clear Channel stock has traded between $30 and $35, down from $55 in 2002, but news that talks with the equity firms were proceeding sent the stock up $3.13 to close at $35.48 on Thursday.

CNBC reported Thursday that private equity groups Providence Equity Partners, Blackstone and KKR are in “advanced talks” to buy out the public shareholders of Clear Channel, as well as the founding Mays family.

Founder Lowry Mays, 71, suffered a stroke last year. Sons Mark and Randall are CEO and chief financial officer, respectively.

Clear Channel said it would not comment further on the buyout talks unless a specific transaction is approved by the board. Company owns more than 1,200 radio stations, an outdoor advertising division and a concerts division, and it owns or operates 40 TV stations.

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