Clear Channel, the largest radio station operator in the country, is partially owned by Bain Capital, which is the company founded and previously run by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Debt-ridden Clear Channel, headquartered in San Antonio, has been quietly pruning its corporate structure since late 2011.
On-air talent and behind-the-scenes employees have been shown the door or programming has been eliminated in markets that include Los Angeles, Boston, Tampa, San Diego, Madison, Wis., Springfield, Mo., Oklahoma City, Nashville, and, most recently, Toledo.
Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners, two private-equity firms, finalized their $26.7 billion purchase of Clear Channel in July, 2008, loading the company with debt. According to Clear Channel’s Nov. 2 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company had $16.4 billion in debt.
The company’s debt must be repaid throughout the decade and comes due as soon as 2014. The 2008 sale was the catalyst for thousands of layoffs as Clear Channel restructured.
Clear Channel has been strategically firing employees in small numbers so it doesn’t appear that the company is undergoing large-scale layoffs, he said, adding that it would have looked bad for Mr. Romney if his former company fired Clear Channel’s workers en masse.
“They’ve been nipping and tucking a lot since last November,” Mr. Del Colliano said. “There has been a substantial number of people [let go]. I can’t estimate it, [but] a handful of people every week for 52 weeks.
“It’s my belief that what they wanted to do was keep attention off of their Bain founder, Mitt Romney.”
Dan Stroud, former co-host of a morning show on KXXY-FM in Oklahoma City, spent 31 years at the station before he was laid off in March. He said he was one of six people let go.
“It was the briefest, most concise meeting I’ve ever been to in my life,” he said. “They never mentioned why it was happening and if I’d done anything wrong; they just said my job was being eliminated — no ‘thank you’ for 31-plus years at the same station doing a great job. No handshake, no good-bye.
“I got off the air, went to a meeting, was escorted out, and that was the last day I worked.”
Mr. Stroud, who has not found work since he was laid off, said he most likely was targeted because he was one of the longest-serving employees at the station, which had garnered him a higher salary than other workers.
Mr. Stroud said the general manager who laid him off read from a highlighted script — the two had known each other since college. The general manager wasn’t allowed to deviate from the script, he said.
“I just think they could have done it a lot better,” Mr. Stroud said.
Mr. Del Colliano said Clear Channel’s future is on shaky ground as Bain Capital looks to turn the once-profitable business around, which could mean more cuts. Clear Channel most likely will be sold to another media company, but only time will tell how its employees fare, he said.
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