Listened to the replay of Yell Group’s Q3 earnings call yesterday, which was my first opportunity to hear the company’s new CEO, Michael Pocock, in action. Pocock joined Yell in November, eventually replacing longtime CEO John Condron, who retired. He inherited a company with a rapidly declining core business and an uncertain future as a multiproduct media company.
He said many of the things you would expect a new CEO of a Yellow Pages company to say. He sees the sales force as a key asset, as well the company’s “iconic” brands. He also acknowledged the economy, changes consumer behavior and Yell’s sizable debt as key challenges.
Pocock promised a detailed strategic download by June, but he did offer the following nuggets of how he plans to change things at Yell:
* Yell will be transformed from a company with three independent units (Yell, Yellowbook and Yell Publicidad) into a company that is more centrally managed. “Digital media tends to be more global in nature; there tend to be fewer geographical differences on the Web. So as a result, you will see us running more at a group or global level.”
* The company sees new digital products, particularly mobile, as the future of the business. The company noted that for the first three quarters (the company’s year ends March 31), IYP revenues grew in single digits while new digital products are set to double year on year. Pocock said Yell is “already monetizing mobile,” though his only cited evidence of that was 5 million free app downloads. He did say that “We clearly see mobility as our greatest opportunity going forward.”
* Yell doesn’t see a long-term future with Google. Yell currently has a reseller deal with Google in the U.K., which Pocock referred to as part of an “inherited strategy.” He acknowledged the deal benefits both Yell and Google in the short term, but long term, not so much. “We feel we have a value proposition that will separate us from the pack. And we need freedom to do that over the long term.”
* Pocock came well short of ruling out a divestiture of pieces of the business, like Yellowbook or Yell’s Latin American operations. Here is what he said, “There really isn’t anything we can talk about … in terms of any asset that is disposable or anything like that. We will run the business as a group vs. a collection of regions.”
In other Yell news, the company announced it has hired a group chief operating officer.