Federal settlement puts local billboards under new ownership

A group of 13 billboards in the Indianapolis area is under new ownership, thanks to an antitrust settlement proposed by the U.S. Department of Justice to help keep the market competitive for advertisers.

Spokane, Washington-based Circle City Outdoor LLC has acquired the billboards from both Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc., which is based in Texas; and Fairway Media Group LLC, which is based in South Carolina. The deal closed on Monday.

Financial terms and individual billboard locations were not disclosed. The deal brings Circle City's total number of Indianapolis-area billboards to 23, according to manager Dave Westburg.

The sale to Circle City is related to a $150 million outdoor advertising swap between Clear Channel and Fairway, both of which owned billboards in the Indianapolis metro area.

In the swap, Clear Channel agreed to acquire Fairway billboards in Atlanta in exchange for billboards owned by Clear Channel in Indianapolis and in the Texas cities of Sherman and Denton.

That action, the Department of Justice said, would eliminate head-to-head competition between the two companies in Indianapolis and Atlanta and thus put advertisers at a disadvantage.

“The loss of competition between Clear Channel and Fairway as a result of the proposed transaction would have led to higher prices for advertisers who rely on billboards to reach consumers located within the Atlanta and Indianapolis metropolitan markets,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse said in a statement issued Dec. 22 by the Department of Justice.

As a remedy, the Department of Justice required that Clear Channel and Fairway sell 13 billboards in Indianapolis to Circle City. They also were required to sell 44 billboards in Atlanta to Link Media Georgia LLC, which is part of Kansas-based Link Media Holdings LLC.

The Indianapolis swap between Clear Channel and Fairway closed Monday.


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