Random Ramblings: Clear Channel & More

Some quick hits before embarking on the return trip from Portland, Ore. to Boston…

*** Today’s big LBO deal news is the possibility that Clear Channel could go private for around $18.5 billion. There are lots of angles of this deal worth discussing – high leverage multiples, family management control but not financial control, a number of non-core assets that could be sold off – but the most interesting may be that Providence Equity Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners may be among the eventual bidders (alongside omnipresent players Blackstone and KKR).

Why so interesting? Because Providence and TH Lee also are just some final paperwork away from acquiring Univision, and ownership of both Univision and Clear Channel could raise the hackles of certain media ownership regulators. The FCC actually is about to take public comment on cross-ownership rules, but it is extremely unlikely that any changes would be voted on – let alone enacted – before the Clear Channel deal comes to pass. Complicating the matter even further is speculation that both firms also might be interested in bankrolling a Jack Welch/Jack Connors bid for The Boston Globe.

Providence and TH Lee likely would argue that they only are part of a Univision ownership group, just as they only would be part of a Clear Channel group. In other words, no controlling interest. Probably persuasive in the end, but still a looming headache…

*** Blackstone Group has raised its current fund target to $20 billion (it had been $15.6b), according to The Wall Street Journal.

No big surprise there. The firm steadfastly believes that bigger is better – as expressed by senior managing direct/chief administrative offiver Bob Friedman during a 2004 panel discussion. As an FYI, I’ll be doing a keynote interview with Friedman at the Yale School of Management Private Equity Conference in December. I’ll challenge him on the theory (i.e., in’t it all built on a debt bubble?), but he’ll certainly respond with recent return numbers (which are fantastic). More on that as it gets closer.

*** Matthew Growney is leaving Motorola Ventures, where he is a co-founder and managing director. His new gig will be as executive vice president and chief of strategy with Boston-based software and services company Darwin Partners.

*** It was good meeting many of you yesterday here in Portland, and my only regret is that I did not have time to visit the rugged coastline. I guess that means I’ll have to return…