If the Clear Channel Deal Doesn't Close...

I'm wondering.

What kind of investment bankers fail to close on their acquisitions by year's end if they really want to buy? After all, they don't get their considerable fees unless they close.

Lee and Bain have been postponing their closing of Clear Channel ostensibly because the FCC hasn't approved the deal. Some skeptics might say that the FCC could have been accelerated for a deal this size. There certainly haven't been any major objections to Clear Channel going private.

So what's up?

I'm thinking that Lee and Bain may be noodling over whether they want to pay the half billion or so in penalty fees for walking -- and I think they've made up their minds. Now, let me caution you, I have absolutely no inside information on this -- only time will tell whether I'm seeing it clearly. I could be dead wrong.

Here's my personal opinion:

1. Lee and Bain walk and pay the hefty penalty fee for not closing thinking that it is cheaper to do that than to own Clear Channel and all the burdens that go with it during this moment in time.

2. Lots of lawsuits are filed by angry shareholders. They'll move to throw out the current management and that includes the Mays family. Clear Channel stock is by and large owned by arbitrage firms who bought it cheap and hope to profit from the sale price spread.

3. Enter Sam Zell.

4. I think (only speculation not based on information I have) that Zell already knows Lee and Bain won't close on Clear Channel. And who is Sam Zell? Zell is all about undervalued assets. He bought Jacor once and sold it to Clear Channel. He knows how to do this. I don't think a big player like Zell wants to own Citadel or Cumulus or string together other available properties now on the market. No, I think he's going to make a play for the big one -- Clear Channel -- and do it all over again.

5. Enter Randy Michaels.

6. Michaels in my opinion is all about getting even. He's like many of us -- a radio programmer. Some could say Clear Channel did Michaels dirt by taking away his power in 2002 and relegating him to some meaningless Internet job. Michaels has the same kind of ego and pride we all have in radio. I don't think it went down well and I think he's had a lot of time to think about what happened to him. After all, there is only one person who really knows the value of Clear Channel and that is Randy Michaels -- he put the clusters together. I'm thinking anything less than Zell and Michaels coming away with the big enchilada would be like a failure for them.

7. The timing is right. If Lee and Bain don't go through with the Clear Channel sale and the Mays' are in fact thrown out with angry shareholders threatening suits, in comes Zell to make them whole again -- without having to pay anywhere near what Lee and Bain offered. Didn't I mention the timing was right and Zell is a one trick pony when it comes to buying undervalued properties? It all comes back to Clear Channel. Events have come together in the U.S. financial system that make it hard to do deals, but Zell could get it done.

Okay. Okay. I'm wrong. It's just my imagination running wild.

Randy really did hire longtime associate Bobby Lawrence to help him run television stations.

And hired his old radio buddy Frank Wood Thursday just to run a small radio group with some TV stations attached. Maybe they'd just like to head into retirement running a lesser group than Clear Channel.

Maybe Randy is not "the noise you can't ignore" as he always said Jacor and Clear Channel was.

I know what I'm thinking.

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