Investor idol

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest has a knack for making money with schlocky reality TV
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03: Radio personality Ryan Seacrest appears onstage at KIIS FM’s Jingle Ball at L.A. Live’s Nokia Theatre on December 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Investor idol
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In 2008, before the U.S. credit crash, the investment firms Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital paid nearly $20 billion to buy the radio and billboard company Clear Channel. It was a disaster from the get-go. With a money-losing radio business and $4 billion in debt due in 2014, Clear Channel needs a saviour, and quick. Enter American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. The private equity firms last week invested $300 million in Seacrest’s production company to acquire new media companies and to create TV content in collaboration with Clear Channel, which will also take a small stake in Seacrest’s firm. Seacrest has a knack for knowing what Americans want. His production company created the massively successful Keeping Up with the Kardashians and several spinoffs. With Seacrest’s help, Bain and THL are betting Clear Channel can still be more than a money-losing radio company—perhaps a new media venture offering Americans what they really want: schlocky reality TV.