Shares of iHeartMedia (NASDAQ:IHRT) were jumping 12% higher in midday trading Thursday after Politico reported the Justice Dept. had agreed to let Liberty Media increase its ownership stake to 50%.
Liberty Media, which also owns a stake in SiriusXM, currently has a 5% position in iHeartMedia, a streaming media company that also owns hundreds of terrestrial radio stations. With increased ownership, Liberty will have a broad reach into virtually all facets of mass media.
A number of organizations opposed Liberty gaining such a large stake because of its interests in satellite radio, podcasts, streaming media (its stake in Sirius gives it a position in Pandora too), broadcast radio, and concert promotion through its ownership stake in Live Nation. It represents a substantial concentration of control over how music and audio content is broadcast, received, marketed, and monetized.
iHeartMedia had gone bankrupt in 2018 and completed a successful restructuring of its company last year, reducing its debt from over $16 billion down to $5.8 billion. Liberty Media acquired its stake in iHeartMedia prior to the restructuring through owning some of its debt, which converted to equity when it emerged from bankruptcy protection.
Although iHeartMedia's radio station division iHeartRadio confirmed the Justice Dept. approval, neither iHeartMedia nor Liberty Media has commented yet.