Yellowbook CEO Walsh to Step Down

Joe Walsh, the executive who arguably did more than anyone to make the Yellow Pages a competitive industry in the United States, has resigned as CEO of Yellowbook, the U.S. division of U.K.-based Yell Group.

Walsh has been with Yellowbook for 24 years, leading its growth from a small independent publisher in Long Island into a billion-dollar independent publisher with a competitive presence in most major U.S. cities.

In recent years, Walsh has helped Yellowbook pivot from being a largely print focused company into an operation that will generate about a quarter of its revenues from digital products this year.

In an email this morning, Walsh tried to offer some reassurance to Yellowbook’s employees:

“I believe we have the right strategic initiatives in place to grow our company into new markets and increase the profitability of our business. Now is therefore the right time to hand over to someone who can lead our company into the next stage of its life.”

Walsh will be succeeded on an interim basis by Bob Gregerson, who currently runs Yell Connect. A search in under way for a permanent replacement.

Walsh’s depature is momentous given his tremendous influence on the Yellow Pages industry. However, it is not a big surprise, given the changes being implemented by Yell’s new management team, led by Mike Pocock. the new team is trying to run Yell on a more centralized basis than predecessor John Condron, who gave his operating units considerable autonomy.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Larry Angove

    We are losing a visionary whose independent publisher mentality helped drive Yellowbook and the Yellow Pages industry to its very best days. Joe has earned the admiration and appreciation of us all.

  2. ryan

    Thank You joe for all you have done

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Mary

    Joe, Wishing you the best in your future endeavors. Thank you for making Yellowbook one of the best companies to work for

  4. Chrisanne

    Sorry to hear that Joe is stepping down and I wish him the best in whatever his future brings. He has always been an upbeat leader even during this recession that we’ve been going through.

  5. Kari

    Or until the business falls to hell cuz it will! Worst run company ever.

  6. Javanerd

    Joe did wonders for Yell, but part of the revival has to come from cutting costs across a global bsuiness. We need to see an increase in profit margin even if the turnover falls. Yell need Strong cash flow to develop the new applications and markets that will see the company thrive in the coming years. Weforia.com needs to be rolled out across the regions before other competitors muscle in and take market share. Please Tony and Mike, can we have more information on how things are going as it all seems a bit quiet at the moment.

  7. Dan Perti jr

    Joe,

    Thank you for your entrepreneurial spirit, intellect, and “game changing” stewardship of Yellow Book and the industry. Your focused, time efficient (and respectful) hands-on leadership, attention to detail (right down to the pricing of a BL in tertiary markets), was remarkable. Your ability to integrate culturally and geographically disparate biz. acquisitions into the Yellow Book foot print, was deliberate and patient. You’re personally responsible for creating significant wealth for VC’s, shareholders, and employees for nearly three decades. You broke the stranglehold the RBOCS had on the SMB’s; allowing hundreds of thousands of businesses to pocket the difference in cost savings that could be used for reinvestment. You always listened to those closest to the customer and solicited ideas even when you knew the answer! You remain peerless in the industry and are among the top few CEO’s in American business that we’ve studied. We will always be grateful for the opportunities you provided. We also had a lot fun along the way. You made us better executives. I am indebted to you for the knowledge and personal fulfillment I’ve gained. Best Wishes and Best Regards! DP

  8. elyce siegel

    Joe Walsh. WOrds can’t express how i feel that you have left the organization. I have told you many times how much i appreciate who you were as a leader and how thankful I am to have known you and worked with you for the past 10 years. I hope you are happy and I have no doubt that wherever life takes you, you will be successful. I am honored to have known such a brilliant man. Good luck to you Joe!!!!! Elyce Siegel

  9. Formerly @ YB

    Dying industry constantly behind the times. Over the last 5 years, WebReach failed. YB.com failed. SEO failed. Selling cookie cutter websites failed. Selling videos failed. Direct mail failed. Yb allowed other companies with 1 core product come in and take apart their industry. Weforia is years late. Groupon and Livingsocial are eating that portion of the industry and now even they have are finished. That industry has maximized profits. Yb can’t even get Weforia off the ground properly. The company has debt which would make Obama blush. Walsh was using weapons from the 80’s to fight a war in 2011. He was overmatched and ripe to step down. Good man, but like most good men, his time has come and gone. Good luck in retirment, sir.

  10. steve machan

    Good luck Joe if you ever need work just contact my charity foundation at http://www.lvcrc.org it for children. You are an always will be one of the greatest over achievers i have known

  11. Michael Stephan III

    Good luck Joe…thank you for the many extraordinaty great times in my life…you are and will continue to be a great leader!

  12. suzie

    I really sad by this news. Joe was a tremendous leader and will be missed.

  13. Lisa

    Joe, I worked for Yellowbook for several years and respected what you brought to the small business…the opportunity to compete! You are young, eager and wanted to be the best. You took Yellowbook to the top and I appreciated that. I was proud to represent your company. Small business is the backbone of the this country. People like you that gave small business an opportunity to grow will be solely missed. I wish nothing but the best for you and your family. God Bless You!!

  14. Elliott Epstein

    Joe , I worked for you and against you for many years in this industry
    I was amazed by your focus to grow Yellow Book to win the Yellow page wars.
    You created havock as a competitor with bell and independants alike, you
    have won more battles than you even know about yet. The consolidation
    you have had the vision to talk about in denver is coming and the white
    flags may be raised even after your depaeture. I will always respect
    and admire what you accomplished.I wish you and your family well and
    know you will succeed at what ever you do next, as you my friend are a
    winner by nature and will only accomplish more down the next fork in the road. I hope I will have the opportunity to see you do it all over again!

    one of the Fab Five

  15. Jeremy McCaslin

    Mr. Walsh,

    I just wanted to say God bless you in your new endeavors and thank you for your wonderful leadership of our company. I am an 8 and half year YELLOWBOOK rep and it has been a blessing to me and my family. May God bless you and your family and thanks again for this wonderful opportunity to work for this GREAT company. You have been an excellent leader and it has been a privilege and honor to work with you.

    Sincerely,

    Jeremy McCaslin

  16. Max Andrews

    Joe Walsh is the greatest leader I’ve ever known. He is the perfect example of an extraordinary CEO that has the gift and abilty to communicate with all levels of an organization while leading with enthusiasm that is second to none. I am proud and fortunate be be able to say I truely worked for one of the greatest visionaries of all times. YB, the Yellow Page industry and the thousands of employees and friends that have been fortunate to work for this amazing individual should all be grateful for the opportunity. Joe, thanks for all you have given and all you have done! God Bless You!

  17. Brian Maggio Jr

    My name is Brian Maggio Jr and I’m still an employee of Yellowbook. I just happened to google Joe Walsh’s name and came across this website. I just happened to think about Joe because of an experience I had when he came to San Antonio a couple of years ago.
    The Austin and New braunfels office came all the way down to San Antonio after we found out that Mr. Walsh was coming to say hi to us. This was about three years ago, so at the time, there was about 40-60 reps with all of the offices combined.
    I was extremely exhausted that morning after working out before the meeting. Yellow book was my 1st corporate job and I have never met a CEO of anything before. I wasn’t excited and didn’t know what the big deal was. It seemed like everyone was getting ready for the second coming that morning.
    Joe Walsh came into the San Antonio office that morning and just blended in. He didn’t need any celebrity like induction, he just wanted to shake hands and say thank you for all of the hard work.
    I was at the far end of the office and almost falling to sleep while everyone else was pepped and ready to shake hands and talk to him. For what ever reason, which still makes me wonder at times, Joe came up to me to shake hands and wonder how I was doing. We had a good 10 minute conversation and it was very unexpected. I never would of thought he would come up to the rep at the far end of the office trying to keep his eyes open while everyone else was trying to get his attention.
    My eyes did, however, open up wide when he started to speak.
    Keep in mind, before this meeting, I thought that people with this much wealth and success grew up with the tools that helped them get there. They were either surrounded with wealth, or just was lucky enough to know investors.
    Joe told a story based on vision. He said he had a certain vision since he was a kid, and he focused on that vision everyday. He said he grew up in a below middle class upbringing and his parents never made above 20,000/yr income. He visioned buying his parents a house one day. He never visioned fancy cars, erotic women, or a celebrity status, he just wanted to have enough money to buy his parents a home one day. He then visioned helping pave the way for other people to buy their parents a house.
    Joe built his dream from the vision he had and inspired me to have my own vision. I truly do believe in the laws of attraction and I believe that if you vision something that you want, you will find away to get it.
    Thank you Joe, for coming down to San Antonio, shaking my hand, and being an inspiration. No one knows the future of Yellowbook, but you will always be known as the great person who lead the company through its best years..

  18. FormerYBSales

    Any time I see a CEO who is full of themselves, and get the ax (always funny to read their resignation communications: he resigned “for the good of the company”.. benevolently.. what a guy… allowing someone else to “bring it into the next phase”..LOL!!)

    Like most of these overpaid egomaiacs, Walsh is viewed as a “visionary” by the middle managers he hires. His vision was good. in 1990. since then, he spent huge capital which the company didnt have, on acquisitons which simply grew the appearance of success borrowing to build products whose life was limited. Apparently he didnt have enough vision to integrate technology while they churned and burned their valuable local relationships and salespeople who could have made transition to new platforms with customers seamless. Instead, they hire with mistruth, paid poorly and make working there intolerable and easily replaced. So, now they are what they are.
    A functionally bankrupt company with a new name, (HIBU?!) with not many reps or customers loyal to them who want to help. Many waiting, like, when Ssaddams Statue fell, to cheer.

    Walsh’s exodus was the best chance they had to survive. Just not paying his salary would help the bottom line and could probably hire about 100 sales people for 10 years.

  19. Anonymous

    Why isn’t there any press on Jim McCusker getting let go last week? That’s huge news and nothing reported. There was mention internally of possible investigation but no mention of why.

  20. anonymous

    I sat and read the many comments and pondered what to say. I will guess that many of the people with the exception of one who stated she/he has been with YB for 8 years does can not really talk with true knowledge of Joe. No one mentioned how he bought the soon to be bankrupt and kicked to the curb Donnelly Directors of PA, MD and DC. in the late 90’s and turned them into very profitable books. His vision of the industry is second to none. Personally meeting the man more than a dozen times and spending time sitting on the floor at a resort watching the final four basketball tournament I can say that when he says he is going to do something he does. Has the industry changed? Hell yes, but I am sure that it was not Joe and Joe alone who put the company in the financial hardship it is in. I am actually willing to bet that he opposed some of the purchases yellowbook made. The problem that we all will face (at least those of in sales who actually make the $$ for the company) it this. Search is not the answer, eliminate the directory and many many businesses will struggle. The cost for SEO and SEM is out of reach for the majority of Small Business Owners. I did not get the chance to ask Joe his thoughts on search or DM or the many other things we sell right before he left unfortunatly. I will say this, what every direction he wanted to go I am sure it was the right way. Those that were not here from the beginning should really not say anything. Walk the streets of North East Philly and ask a business owner about the Donnelly Directory. If you don’t like profanity don’t ask!! The man was the right person for the job and when working for a publicly traded company the board just doesn’t agree sometimes and the majority rules. Those that stated with YB in the early part of 2000 you should be very thankful, Joe made your job very easy!

  21. Anonymous

    As someone who knows him well, “full of himself” is the last phrase I would use to describe him.

  22. Debra

    I worked under the tutelage of Joe Walsh. i earneed the president’s club status every year. I left and eventually started my own company years later. Joe and the others lead me and yellow book to be great sales people. May Gid bless and continue to prosper him always.

    Debra M

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