IHeartMedia has moved from owner to renter as it closes the first piece of a deal to sell 411 tower sites, a move that could ultimately fetch the company up to $400 million. Vertical Bridge’s first step is to take control of 367 tower sites for $369 million. Listeners and employees won’t notice any difference as iHeartMedia inks a 15-year lease agreement keeping its stations on their current towers for $20.8 million a year. After that, the cell tower leasing company has agreed to give iHeartMedia the option to remain on the towers for three additional five-year contracts.
No timetable was given for when the remaining 44 towers will be transferred. In a regulatory filing, iHeartMedia says those will be transferred when “defects are cured” at those sites. Under the terms of the deal Vertical is required to buy 85% of the 411 towers, or 349 sites, a hurdle it’s already met. But COO/CFO Rich Bressler told investors two months ago to expect “multiple closings” as Vertical completes its due diligence across more than 150 markets nationwide.
Beyond the tower sale, Bressler said his team is “constantly looking” at buying and selling opportunities, including the sale of non-core assets, pointing out the company has pocketed more than $800 million of sale proceeds during the past year, including a similar sale and lease-back of office space. “We are always looking at what's the right thing to do for our stakeholders,” he said.