Liberty Media sells its stake in US radio giant iHeartMedia

Colorado-based media and entertainment company Liberty Media has sold off its entire stake in US radio giant iHeartMedia.

As Variety reports, an SEC filing from publicly-traded iHeart reveals that Liberty sold 5,941,248 class A shares on October 5. At $25.25 per share, the value of the stake sold was around $150 million.

Founded by Chairman John Malone in 1991 and led by CEO & President Greg Maffei since 2006, Liberty still owns a 33% stake in Live Nation Entertainment.

In addition, it owns a 76% stake in SiriusXM, which in turn fully owns Pandora.

SiriusXM has also owned a minority interest in SoundCloud since February 2020 via a $75 million investment in the streaming audio service.

Liberty’s exit from iHeart comes nearly two years after it was first reported that it was seeking Department of Justice approval to increase its stake in the radio firm.

The DOJ was reported to be considering blocking that plan, but gave its approval in July last year, in a deal Politico reported would allow Liberty to up its shares in iHeart to 50%.

A potential larger Liberty/iHeart deal was opposed by a number of US consumer rights and artist advocacy groups, who said that it would give Liberty too much of a competitive advantage in the market, calling it an “overreaching effort to monopolize music radio” in the United States.

In April 2020, iHeartMedia told its investors that it was working towards an operating cost-savings target of $200m for the 12 calendar months of this year.

That target came in addition to the $50m in annual calendar-year savings iHeart previously said it expected to be achieved by the execution of “modernization initiatives” which began in February 2020 – a process which reportedly saw hundreds of employees, including a swathe of on-air DJs, made redundant as new investment was pumped into AI-driven programming.

Speaking to Variety, an iHeartMedia spokesperson said: “We appreciate Liberty’s support for iHeartMedia, originally as a holder of debt which then converted into a meaningful equity stake, and we are delighted that they received a good return on their investment.”

In January, Liberty Media Acquisition Corporation (LMAC), a “blank check” acquisition company launched by Liberty Media, raised $575 million in its Initial Public Offering on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in the US.Music Business Worldwide