IHeartMedia, the nation’s largest radio conglomerate, has been seeking all year to avoid bankruptcy by renegotiating more than $15 billion of its debt. But the company has had no luck enticing its creditors to take a haircut and defer repayment in exchange for up to 49% of the company’s equity.
The equity holders — Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital — conceded on Thursday that they are now willing to accept a deal in which they would give up the vast majority of the company’s equity. In a securities filing, the company disclosed that on Nov. 21, it offered the creditors 87.5% of the equity, as well as 87.5% of the company’s stake in Clear Channel Outdoor, its partially owned billboard subsidiary. The company would issue $7 billion in new debt, with a five to seven-year maturity.
On Tuesday, the creditors group — led by mutual fund firm Franklin Resources Inc. — made a counter proposal, offering to take 95.3% of the equity and 100% of the company’s stake in the billboard company. The counterproposal contemplates just $5.75 billion in new debt. The creditors’ proposal also references an option for a pre-packaged bankruptcy.
Philip Brendel, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said it is highly likely that iHeart declares bankruptcy by June 2018. Given that, he said the equity holders demand to hold on to 12.5% of the company is an “overreach.”
The company said that talks continue.
“No agreement has been reached with respect to the above discussions and discussions remain ongoing,” the company said in the filing. “There can be no assurance that any agreement will be reached. Any such agreement will require the consent of additional debt holders who are not party to the negotiations, and who hold substantial percentages of our debt.”
IHeart is saddled with nearly $20 billion in debt as a legacy of its leveraged buyout in 2008. Of that, approximately $8.4 billion comes due in 2019, and the company has no obvious way to repay it.
Earlier this week, Cumulus Media, the nation’s second-largest radio group, filed for bankruptcy under the burden of $2 billion in debt.