Tag Archives: Joe Walsh

People – November

It has been a very, very active period for announcements about people in the Yellow Pages industry.  This regular blog sponsored Hawthorne Executive Search  is all about people in the Yellow Pages industry. If you have news you want to share about someone that is involved in the Yellow Pages industry (including retirees) that we should all know about, drop us a line and tell us how they are doing. Send your submissions to ken@yptalk.com.

Joe Walsh:

Yell Group announced that Joe Walsh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yellowbook, US, has agreed to step down to “pursue other interests”.  His interim successor is Bob Gregerson, the Group’s Chief Consumer Officer.  Gregerson has a substantial track record in managing and growing worldwide divisions for leading companies, with considerable experience in the launch, growth and transformation of direct sales and ecommerce initiatives. Gregerson will now “…extend his strong understanding and commitment to innovation to the direct benefit of Yell’s SME customers throughout the US….”

Mike Pocock, the company’s Group Chief Executive Officer, commented:  “I wish
to thank Joe for his significant contribution to Yell over the past 24 years.  He has played a key role in the transformation of the Group. Under his leadership, Yellowbook has grown from a small independent publisher in Long Island, New York, to a national leader in local search. Joe and I agree that the time is appropriate to make this transition, as the Group’s business model and marketplaces change. We are now starting to deliver our new strategic
initiatives, built on a successful foundation that Joe helped create. Our
succession process will be thorough and orderly, supported by the strong team
that Joe has built.”

For a recent article about Joe Walsh, click here.

Jenny Ashmore:

Yell also announced the appointment of Jenny Ashmore to the new role of group chief marketing officer.  Ashmore will take responsibility for Yell’s global marketing strategy and oversee its execution throughout the Group’s operations in the UK, US, Spain and Latin America.

Jenny’s appointment supports Yell’s strategy to transform from its established position in providing print and online advertising for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to become a leader in the emerging local eMarketplace.

John Fischer:

The Berry Company has picked John S. Fischer the company’s General Counsel and Secretary, as the Company’s Interim President and CEO upon the company’s
emergence from Chapter 11. At emergence, Mr. Fischer will replace current
Interim President and CEO Scott Brubaker, who is a Managing Director with
Alvarez & Marsal. Mr. Fischer will also serve as a member of the reorganized company’s Board of Directors.

“John’s tenure with Berry, his relationships inside and outside of the company, and his understanding of the evolving dynamics of the local search industry make him ideal for this role,” said Mr. Brubaker. “This appointment will provide the company with strong continuity of leadership at emergence, which we expect by the end of November.”

Fischer has served as Local Insight Media’s General Counsel and Secretary since June 2006. In addition to providing legal counsel for all the company’s transactions and major business dealings, he has provided business advice and decision-making as part of the company’s Executive Leadership team. Prior to joining the company, Fischer was Deputy General Counsel at Dex Media, where he focused on securities, commercial and transactional matters, including Dex Media’s $9.5 billion merger with R.H. Donnelley Corporation. His experience also includes serving as Managing Partner, Telecoms, of Logica Consulting, a European management consultancy. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University and holds JD and MBA degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Richard Halle:

The Berry Company also announced the appointment of Richard G.Halle as the company’s new Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Halle has more than 20 years of diverse financial management experience in the financial services sector and with other industries. Mr. Halle replaces Richard Jenkins, also from Alvarez & Marsal, who served as the company’s Interim Chief Financial Officer for the past two years.

“Richard Halle is a highly talented and experienced leader, with a unique combination of financial and business experience,” said Mr. Brubaker. “He has an impressive track record working in all aspects of finance – including planning, forecasting, budgeting, accounting and reporting – and will play a pivotal role on our senior executive team as we emerge from bankruptcy protection.”

Halle is the former Chief Financial Officer and Secretary of the Board of DTN Holding Company in Omaha, Nebraska, a business he joined as it was going through bankruptcy. After that company’s emergence, he spearheaded a successful transformation targeted at increasing revenue and operating profits, and played a key leadership role in enhancing product lines, strengthening value positions, and developing internal mechanisms to respond quickly to market demands and trends.  Prior to joining DTN, Halle was a Managing Director at FTI Consulting, Inc. in Denver, Colorado, where he specialized in analyzing company liquidity, evaluating competition and industry trends, and developing restructuring and sale strategies and proposals. He holds BA and MBA degrees from the University of New Hampshire.

Mark Lane:

The Berry Company announced that Mark J. Lane has been appointed Interim Senior Vice President, Client Services, replacing Kevin Payne, who recently left the business to pursue other opportunities. Mr. Lane has 25 years of sales experience with Berry supporting its independent line of business.
Prior to this position, he served in a variety of leadership and management
positions within the company, including Regional Vice President, General
Manager, Senior Director of Telco Relations and Regional Director. Mr. Lane
holds a degree in Business Administration from Miami University of Ohio.

Kevin Payne:

LocalEdge named Kevin Payne chief operating officer and he will be based at LocalEdge headquarters in Buffalo, NY. Previously, Payne was senior vice president for Local Insight Media, Berry Network and Cincinnati Bell.

LocalEdge CEO Jeff Folckemer said, “Kevin is a pioneer in the digital space and is looking forward to help lead our organization to the next level of digital transformation.”

Rorie Devine:

Devine has left the post of UK chief technology officer at Yell to take on the role of group chief information officer at United Business Media (UBM).  UBM is a
business information services firm which serves the technology, media,
financial services, media, healthcare and automotive industries. The company
owns press release distribution engine PR Newswire, as well as a range of
titles including Information Week and Music Week.

According to Devine, the main attractions of the job are around the way in which his new employer is utilising digital technologies to operate, as well as IT
complexities related to a string of business acquisitions made over recent years.

Scott Moore:

Yell announced the appointment of Scott Moore to the new role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Scott will lead the creation and development of Yell’s new generation of products and services that will enable small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers and their consumers to capitalize on the digital opportunity.

Moore joins Yell from MSN where, as Partner and Executive Producer, he was responsible for transforming Microsoft’s online consumer service, turning it into a valuable property which now attracts more than 125 million American consumers every month and drives adoption of Bing, Microsoft’s search service. Previously, Scott was Senior Vice President and Head of Media at Yahoo!, where he led Yahoo! to market leadership in News, Sports, Finance, Entertainment and Lifestyle. Earlier he held senior management roles at Microsoft businesses including MSNBC.com and Expedia Travel. He was also Publisher of Slate, Microsoft’s online magazine. Moore will report to Mike Pocock, Group Chief Executive Officer, and will be based at a new Yell office to be opened in Seattle, WA. The Seattle office will act as a central hub to co-ordinate Yell’s worldwide digital development activities.

Mike Pocock said: “Scott is a highly regarded senior executive with vast experience in building and turning around digital and online properties. At Yell, he will develop and execute the new products and services that will enable our more than 1.3 million SME customers and their consumers to take full advantage of the digital opportunity. Scott’s proven commercial track record and intimate knowledge in this space will bring a new clarity and energy to our rapidly expanding digital portfolio.”

Gretchen Zech:

Arrow Electronics, Inc. announced that Gretchen Zech has been named senior
vice president of global human resources for the company.  Zech will be
responsible for Arrow Electronics’ global human resources (HR) strategy and
operations, and serve as a member of the company’s executive committee. She
will oversee talent and performance management, professional development, and compensation and benefits initiatives for the company.

“Gretchen’s wealth of HR knowledge and leadership experience spanning over 20 years make her the ideal person for this important role,” said Michael J. Long, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Arrow Electronics. “Our people are our momentum, and Gretchen will lead the continued evolution of our global HR and talent programs.”

Zech joins Arrow Electronics from Dex One where she was senior vice president and chief HR officer since 2006.

George Burnett:

George Burnett, chief executive of Alta Colleges Inc., the parent company of Westwood College and Redstone College, will resign at the end of the month, but he will remain on the board of the privately held company, a spokesman said.

Burnett has led Alta and Westwood for the past five years, serving at a time when for-profit schools came under fire for high student default rates and aggressive sales tactics. Westwood’s alleged problems preceded Burnett, but they came to the fore in lawsuits and even a U.S. Senate hearing during his tenure. Burnett didn’t give a reason for his decision to leave his post.

Dean Gouin will replace Burnett as CEO, effective Oct. 1. Gouin is a 15-year veteran at the company, having filled positions in human resources, financial aid, career development services, and student services before becoming chief operating officer of Westwood College.

Burnett was in charge of the phone directory business at telecommunications company, Qwest, now CenturyLink, under then-CEO Joe Nacchio. Qwest was the target of a fraud lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission and an investigation by the Justice Department. Nacchio is serving a six-year prison sentence. Burnett was never targeted by these actions.

When Qwest sold its phone directory, and Burnett went on to become chief executive of Dex Media for a brief period where he led a leveraged buyout, an initial public offering and then a merger with rival R.H. Donnelley, which later went bankrupt.

Editors Corner: The End of An Era

The announcement yesterday that Joe Walsh has resigned as CEO of Yellowbook (U.S. division of UK-based Yell Group) after 24 years with the company certainly marks the end of an era.

We first interviewed Joe for a YP Talk article back in December, 2004 (link to full interview) just as the first Internet based products were starting to
arrive.  If you had an opportunity to spend a few minutes with him, you very quickly understand how he was able to orchestra the growth of Yellowbook from a very small independent publisher in Long Island into a billion dollar independent publisher with a significant presence in most major U.S. markets.

We noted at the time that Walsh’s Yellow Pages career was a textbook Horatio Alger story. He started as a sales rep for a small service directory company in the Washington, DC area in 1982. He joined Yellow Book in 1987 where he quickly rose to become CEO in 1992. Walsh acknowledged that he closely studied people who are top achievers. By 1992, he had changed the company’s focus to entirely Yellow Pages and started on the first of a string of acquisitions buying a series of small books in New Jersey from Gannett Company. In 1999, the company was sold to British Telecom, where BT agreed to provide a $1.8 billion dollar war chest for further acquisitions.  Within two years, Yellow Book had acquired over 30 publishers. In June, 2001, the directory services (Yell Group) were spun off from BT and acquired by the private equity groups Apax Partners Ltd. and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst. In July, 2003, Yell was listed on the London Stock Exchange following a successful Initial Public Offering (IPO). In January, 2004, Apax Partners Ltd. and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst sold their remaining holdings
in Yell.

Walsh has instrumental in Yellowbook’s efforts to growth through the acquisition of smaller independent publishers, sometimes at sales multiples that raised eyebrows.  And while acquisitions of any type will always result in a few ruffled feathers when the acquired company is transitioned to the “Yellowbook way”, by and large, the company became highly proficient at completing these mergers in a relatively seamless, efficient way.

Most recently, Walsh was one of the first industry leaders to sense the need to transition the company again, but this time from a predominated print focused company into an operation that will generate an increasing share of its revenues from digital and non-traditional products in the future.  Other major publishers have followed, all with mostly mixed results to this point.  As a result, Walsh could arguably be considered one of the most impactful leaders ever in the Yellow Pages industry.

I believe Walsh’s departure marks the end of an era as the major players in the industry are now mostly being led by executives who have little to no roots in the industry, as was the case for the better part of the industries one hundred plus year history.  The industry is definitely in unknown, uncharted waters now, with captains that really may not understand how their ships run or even agree with their primary current engine, the print Yellow Pages.

Some industry watchers believe this was not a big surprise, given the changes being floated by Yell’s new management team.  But the reaction of some of the Yellowbook people seemed to be the opposite.  Netherless, Bob Gregerson, who will assume the CEO spot on an interim basis, has very big shoes to fill as he pushes the company reinvention rock up a very steep hill.

For long time industry veterans such as myself, this truly does feel like the end of an era where the industry’s future business direction was clear and leadership was a personable,dynamic lot with deep roots in the business.  Between environmental battles, the heavy push to convert to digital products, and significant overall changes in the media advertising world in general, perhaps Walsh was again a visionary with the statement he made in an email sent to Yellowbook employees:

“…Now is therefore the right time to hand over to someone who can lead our company into the next stage of its life…..”

If someone at Yell/Yellowbook knows what that next stage looks like, give me a call, as this change seems contradictory.  As Walsh noted in our 2004 interview:

“…I think it is vital that people win. It’s vital that your people succeed. Because if they don’t, it is not their fault, it is the leaders fault. You either picked the wrong hill, or didn’t have the right plan, but taking that responsibility is very important. I describe it in management development courses with the regional managers or conferences with the reps that we view the business structure as an inverted triangle where the people who touch the customers, the sales reps and the managers are at the top, and the guy running this company, me, is at the bottom. For everyone in between, their job is to allow those people making commitments to the customers to over deliver, to remove
obstacles, to speed the process along. I view my job as providing clarity, removing obstacles, and letting the folks doing the real work everyday get their job done…”

I’m not sure that job descripotion had changed much.  For Joe Walsh, I don’t think this will be the last we hear from him.  Winners don’t quit, they just find new challenges.  Both Walsh and Yell/Yellowbook will now have the chance to pursue those new challenges…