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Yellow Media‘s longtime CEO Marc Tellier is stepping down and the company is seeking a replacement who can lead it through a full transformation to digital. Tellier has been at Yellow Media’s helm since October 2001. He has agreed to stay on during the search for his replacement to effect a smooth transition.

Yellow Media like most directory publishers faces a challenge of building a strong digital foundation to offset the inevitable decline in print revenue. In 2012, Yellow Media generated 38 percent of its revenue from digital, up from 29 percent the previous year. Print declines have really kicked in at YPG, which had been performing better than many of its peers with print. In 2012 print fell by 21.2 percent on an adjusted basis in 2012, and the declines are expected to continue at similar levels.

Under Tellier, YPG has been a very aggressive acquirer, purchasing both rival publishers and digital companies that filled in gaps as YPG was building its online and mobile capabilities. Some of the deals worked out better than others. Notably, YPG’s 2006 acquisition of Trader Media ended with a sale to the private equity firm Apax for less than the original purchase price. Other notable acquisitions include Canpages, once its largest directory rival, as well as and RedFlagDeals.

Tellier’s departure comes soon after the company successfully completed a crucial recapitalization, which converted a sizable portion of debt into shares. The recap reduced YPGs debt by roughly C$1.5 billion. His departures comes at a time of great change and transition throughout the directory industry. In the United States, two of the largest players, SuperMedia and Dex One, are merging, while Hibu, operator of directory units in the United States, Latin America, the UK and Spain, and the Italian publisher Seat PG are grappling with monumental debt loads.

Two of the stronger global companies, France’s Solocal and Sweden’s Eniro, have gradually transformed themselves into majority digital businesses that are less reliant on print revenue. Tellier’s successor will have one overarching task — accelerate the transformation of YPG.

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