On Thursday, iHeartMedia – the largest radio conglomerate in the US – finally succumbed to its enormous debt burden and filed for a long-anticipated Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (iHeartMedia Inc., 18-31274, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas) after the company and a majority of its creditors reached an agreement for a pre-pack deal to eliminate tens of billions in debt while the company continues to operate.

After trying to negotiate a deal with creditors since last March, the company said in a statement that it had reached an agreement in principle with investors holding more than $10 billion of its debt, along with its private equity owners. The pact, intended to give the company a framework for a speedier reorganization, would cut iHeart’s debt by more than $10 billion, it said.

“The agreement … is a significant accomplishment, as it allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure,” Chief Executive Bob Pittman said.

Based in San Antonio, iHeart controls 856 US radio stations and employs 17,000 workers worldwide, along with Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, the largest billboard company in the world. iHeart’s traditional businesses – the radio stations and the Clear Channel Outdoor billboard unit – contribute the bulk of the company’s revenue. The Chapter 11 filing didn’t include the billboard unit.

iHeartMedia said it believes it has enough cash on hand and will earn enough through regular business operations to keep its business running through the restructuring talks, although in light of the recent Toys “R” Us liquidation which took place six months after that particular Chapter 11, we doubt many existing employees will stay there long.

Given the enormity of the debt, Bain Capital and Thomas H Lee who LBOed the company on the eve of the financial crisis in a massive $27 billion deal which was troubled from the start, will surrender most of their ownership stake per the WSJ.

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