(Reuters) - IHeartMedia Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday as the largest U.S. radio station owner reached an in-principle agreement with creditors to restructure its overwhelming debt load.
The company, which filed for bankruptcy along with some of its units, said it reached the agreement with holders of more than $10 billion of its outstanding debt for a balance sheet restructuring, which would reduce its debt by more than $10 billion.
IHeartMedia, which has struggled with $20 billion of debt and falling revenue at its 858 radio stations, said cash on hand and cash generated from ongoing operations will be sufficient to fund the business during the bankruptcy process.
“The agreement ... is a significant accomplishment, as it allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure,” Chief Executive Bob Pittman said.
The filing comes after John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp proposed on Feb. 26 a deal to buy a 40 percent stake in a restructured iHeartMedia for $1.16 billion, uniting the company with Liberty’s Sirius XM Holdings Inc satellite radio service.
Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc, a subsidiary of iHeartMedia and one of the world’s largest billboard companies, and its units did not commence Chapter 11 proceedings.
IHeartMedia skipped a $106 million interest payment on Feb. 1, triggering a 30-day grace period during which the company has tried to hammer out a deal with it bondholders.
The company disclosed on Monday it was still exchanging proposals with its creditors, but had yet to reach an agreement.
Its most recent proposal would have given holders of secured loans, who are owed nearly $13 billion, about $5.6 billion in new debt and 94 percent of the equity in a reorganized iHeartMedia. These creditors also would have received iHeartMedia’s 89.5 percent stake in Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings.
Bain Capital LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP control 68 percent of the voting stock of iHeartMedia, according to the company’s most recent annual report.
The private equity firms led a $17.9 billion leveraged buyout of what was then Clear Channel Communications Inc in 2008, just as the buyout boom was fading and as the signs of the financial crisis began to emerge.
Shares of iHeartMedia lost three-quarters of their value in the second half of 2015 and have never recovered since then. On Monday, the pink sheet stock closed at 48 cents.
IHeartMedia traces its roots to the 1972 purchase of KEEZ-FM in San Antonio, Texas, where it is currently headquartered. It also produces syndicated radio programs that feature “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest and political personalities Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
The company had 14,300 employees at the end of 2016, according to its most recent annual report.