Global Media & Entertainment Investments (GMEI) has officially moved to up its stake in iHeartMedia to as much as 49.99 percent.
Global, formerly Honeycomb Investments Limited, reiterated its intention to acquire up to nearly half of iHeartMedia’s stock (IHRT) in a letter to Albert Shuldiner, who serves as chief of the FCC’s audio division and, per his LinkedIn profile, is “responsible for all licensing and regulatory matters for AM and FM radio stations.”
For additional context, the Bahamas-organized Global Media & Entertainment Investments Trust’s sole beneficiary is businessman Michael Tabor. London-based Global, for its part, was founded in 2007 by Ashley Tabor-King (with financial support from his father, Michael) and owns prominent UK radio stations including Capital (a network comprised of 12 individual stations, specifically) and Heart (possessing 10 of 13 total stations under the banner). Despite these clear-cut ties, the entities are technically independent, and GMEI itself holds the 8.7 percent stake in iHeartMedia.
Per the aforementioned letter to Shuldiner, GMEI counsel on February 5th informed iHeartMedia’s FCC attorneys in a phone call that the former business had filed a Schedule 13D, the form that must precede purchases involving more than five percent of a company’s equity shares. Plus, the legal professionals indicated that they intended “to cooperate and work with iHeart to secure the approvals requested” – and, in turn, the bolstered ownership stake – once again according to the letter.
Then, on February the 8th, “GMEI gave formal notification to iHeart,” requesting advance approval for the purchase of a non-controlling interest of up to 49.99 percent in iHeartMedia. “Neither GMEI nor its FCC counsel received any objection or further communication about this request, other than an acknowledgement of receipt,” the text proceeds.
Ashley Tabor-King himself reiterated the acquisition-related points – GMEI counsel had noted that the “stock acquisition and request for routine advance approval were not hostile” – during a February 18th conference call “with iHeart’s senior management,” including president and CEO Robert Pittman, GMEI’s letter continues.
Nevertheless, iHeartMedia on March 8th filed a petition for declaratory relief with the FCC, requesting that Global be able to increase its IHRT ownership stake “up to any non-controlling amount not to exceed 9.99%.” Global was “frustrated” to learn of the “unilateral” decision to make the request for just 9.99 percent maximum ownership, as opposed to 49.99 percent.
And though Global notes in conclusion that iHeartMedia adopted a stockholder rights plan in May of 2020, under which investors cannot acquire 10 percent or more of the company’s stock without receiving permission from the board of directors, said plan “is not relevant to the [Federal Communications] Commission’s consideration of the matter.”
Now, Global has taken the request directly to the FCC, in addition to asking that the agency allow the public to comment on the matter. At the time of this piece’s publishing, iHeartMedia higher-ups hadn’t publicly addressed the development.
Last month, iHeartMedia purchased digital-audio and podcasting technology platform Triton from The E. W. Scripps Company in a $230 million deal.