Bain, Thomas H. Lee complete Clear Channel buyout

Clear Channel offices in Burbank, California are pictured May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Private equity firms Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners said on Wednesday they completed the $17.9 billion purchase of radio-station and billboard company Clear Channel Communications Inc.

The deal, which had been slowed by legal battles in two states and negotiations to lower the purchase price, closed almost two years after Clear Channel began exploring strategic options in October 2006.

Clear Channel had agreed to be acquired at the height of the private equity boom last year. The market has since changed significantly, with the credit markets tightening and the cost of financing leveraged-loan debt surging.

The buyout firms had agreed to buy Clear Channel for $39.20 per share, but later filed lawsuits in New York and Texas to force six banks to fund the deal.

The banks include Citigroup Inc, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Deutsche Bank AG and Wachovia Corp.

In May, the bank syndicate, private equity buyers and Clear Channel struck a deal to lower the deal’s price to $36 per share and settle litigation between the parties.

The deal became a symbol of the buyout industry’s boom and its later struggles as credit markets put funding in jeopardy. The volume of buyouts globally fell 77 percent in the first half of this year, according to research firm Dealogic.

Shareholders of San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel approved the deal on July 24. Clear Channel’s stock will cease trading at the close of the stock market on July 30 and the company will be privately owned.

Reporting by Jessica Hall; Editing by Derek Caney