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Liberty Media sells all its iHeartMedia shares

By | Published on Wednesday 20 October 2021


Sirius XM owner Liberty Media has sold its entire stake in US radio firm iHeartMedia, according to a new SEC filing from the publicly listed broadcaster.

For a time, Liberty Media seemed keen to significantly increase its shareholding in the iHeart business, with officials at the US Department Of Justice giving the all-clear last year for it to increase its stake in the broadcaster from 5% to 50%.

Those iHeart ambitions on Liberty Media’s part created some competition law concerns because it already owned a controlling 72% stake in satellite broadcaster Sirius, which in turn owns outright personalised radio service Pandora. If Liberty Media also basically controlled the iHeart business, that would make it a very dominant player in the US radio sector, where AM/FM, satellite and online services now all compete for listeners and advertisers.

Particular concerns were expressed in the music community, because as well as controlling Sirius XM, Liberty Media also owns a third of Live Nation, the biggest live music and ticketing company in the world. And those concerns led to the Artist Rights Alliance signing up to a letter asking the DoJ to block any bid by Liberty to become a significant shareholder in iHeartMedia.

That letter stated: “”With just its current holdings, including Pandora and SiriusXM and a major stake in Ticketmaster/LiveNation, Liberty Media already has far too much control over the music ecosystem. With artists, performers, and consumers already facing unprecedented uncertainty and risk [the] DoJ should put the brakes on this dangerous threat to creative livelihoods and consumer options”.

The DoJ didn’t put the brakes on, but – it seems – Liberty Media has nevertheless given up on its ambitions to take control of iHeart. According to the SEC filing, having already offloaded a minority of its iHeart shares, Liberty Media then sold off all its remaining stock in one big $150 million transaction on 5 Oct.