Joe Walsh Takes the Reins at Dex

Dex Media announced today that former Yellowbook CEO Joe Walsh will take over as its President and CEO, replacing Peter McDonald.

It has been widely rumored for some time that Walsh was in line for a key role at Dex Media. Walsh and his former Yellowbook colleagues Gary Shaw and Gordon Henry have recently been doing consulting work at Dex Media. Their presence sparked rumors that a succession plan was in the works, likely involving Walsh, 51, replacing the 64 year old McDonald, who came out of retirement to run SuperMedia, which later merged with Dex One to become Dex Media.

Walsh was a popular leader at Yellowbook, but he left the company in 2011, not long after its parent company Yell (later renamed hibu) brought in a new management team led by Mike Pocock. Since leaving hibu, Walsh has consulted and served on boards and has remained visible at local search industry conferences.

Walsh’s leadership of Yellowbook changed the U.S. Yellow Pages landscape.  Through expansion and acquisition, he built the publishers from a small regional independent into a roughly $2 billion giant that challenged incumbent publishers, particularly in major markets.

Yellowbook’s push into large markets was advanced when it was acquired by British Telecom (later Yell). Major metros had once been considered too expensive for small publishers to take on, but BT gave Yellowbook the necessary financial wherewithal. Walsh’s mantra was that the then utility based incumbent publishers (one of which he now runs) charged too much for their advertising, while Yellowbook offered small business advertisers a lower cost per lead.

While it may take a little while to get a sense of where Walsh wants to take Dex Media, his appointment does raise immediate speculation about another wave of industry consolidation. Back in 2011, Walsh gave a keynote address at a BIA/Kelsey conference in which he made the case for the ultimate consolidation of the major U.S. directory publishers.

In that address, Walsh said his analysis showed that consolidating two major directory companies would help stabilize revenues declines and improve margins. Much has transpired since that presentation, including the Dex One/SuperMedia merger, which created the company Walsh now leads.

Walsh and McDonald will take questions on the transition on Dex Media’s November 4 Q3 earnings call. One question that may come up is whether Walsh still advocates consolidation.

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