Yellow Pages CEO Bruce Cotterill leaves just weeks after debt restructure, new board appointments

Yellow Pages Group (YPG) CEO Bruce Cotterill is leaving the struggling directories business, which recently wrote off NZ$1.05 billion of bank debt and announced a new board.

 In a statement YPG said Cotterill had announced his departure today.

“For a variety of reasons, the last two years have been challenging,” said Cotterill.

“But with the (capital) restructure completed and both new owners and a new board of directors in place, the time is right for me to move on. I feel like my job is done,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cotterill told interest.co.nz that YPG had been ready to announce his resignation yesterday before the Christchurch earthquake struck. It held off until today while it ensured staff were safe. Cotterill denied he was asked to leave by the new board and said he made the decision to quit over Christmas.

He said he would take time off from March and doesn't have any immediate plans.

 YPG says director Scott Pomeroy  will serve as interim CEO whilst a search is underway to find a permanent replacement. Pomeroy, from Colorado in the US,  recently resigned as president and CEO of directory and search group Local Insight Media which entered chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last November.  Like YPG, the group is also restructuring debt.
 
Of YPG Pomeroy said: “I’m delighted to lead an organisation with such a strong heritage for partnering with SMEs in growing their businesses, and I’m looking forward to contributing my knowledge and experience.”

Cotterill told interest.co.nz in a Double Shot interview last November running YPG was the biggest challenge of his career which has included stints heading up Colliers Jardine's Australasian operations, the New Zealand arm of Kerry Packer's ACP Media and at Canterbury International.

The directories business had been facing an "almost a perfect storm" he said then with a drop in advertising spending, structural shift to the internet and the company's debt burden, inherited when it was sold by Telecom for NZ$2.24 billion to Hong Kong-based private equity group Unitas Capital and and Teachers’ Private Capital, the private investment arm of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, in March 2007 in a leveraged buyout that included about NZ$1.5 billion of debt.  

Following the debt restructure YPG's BNZ led banking consortium is at the wheel with shareholders' interests wiped out. The restructure gave the group a capital value of NZ$750 million. The recent new board appointments included the naming, as a director, of former MediaWorks CEO and Radio Live talk show host Brent Impey who is not thought to want the CEO's job. Cotterill is thought to have been unpopular with some of the bankers.

Both locally and in Australia there has been speculation of US-base consultants FTI Consulting taking over YPG's management. 

 After massive write downs of goodwill and brand value, YPG last month revealed a NZ$1.4 billion loss for the June 2010 financial year, up from a loss of NZ$338.3 million in the June 2009 year.
 
Read YPG's statement below:

Yellow Pages Group Chief Executive Officer, Bruce Cotterill, announced today he is leaving the company following the successful completion of the debt restructure of the organisation.

“For a variety of reasons, the last two years have been challenging,” Cotterill said this morning.

“But with the restructure completed and both new owners and a new Board of Directors in place, the time is right for me to move on. I feel like my job is done,” he said.

“The major focus during the last 12 months has been to get the debt load reduced, whilst at the same time growing our business, our people and our client relationships and ensuring we met our profit expectations during a tough time for the economy,” he added.

Yellow® Chairman, Andrew Day, said he was disappointed that Cotterill was leaving, but respected his reasons for doing so.

“Bruce has done a terrific job in leading the Yellow team through what has been a difficult period for the business and against the toughest economic backdrop in decades,” he said.

“I know that his team will be disappointed with his decision.”

Experienced directories Executive and recently appointed Yellow Director, Scott Pomeroy, has been appointed as interim CEO of the company, whilst a global executive search is underway to find a permanent replacement. Mr Pomeroy, from Colorado USA, brings a wealth of leadership experience in many diverse industries, with expertise in print and online directory services.

He most recently served for five years as President and CEO of Local Insight Media – the fifth-largest directory publisher and local search provider in the USA.

Mr Pomeroy said he is excited about working with the Yellow leadership team.

“I’m delighted to lead an organisation with such a strong heritage for partnering with SMEs in growing their businesses, and I’m looking forward to contributing my knowledge and experience.”

“Scott brings with him considerable industry skills and leadership capabilities that will be invaluable to the business and make him a fantastic addition to the team”, concluded Day.

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3 Comments

Ok I'll do it, I'll take the job.  My first task will be to educate staff and the board of the existince of a thing called the INTERNET.

Meanwhile, the NZPost startup the Localist has settled its cybersquatting dispute with Yellow Pages

Here's the statement

"Localist – Auckland’s new local information and directory service – and Yellow Pages Group have settled a dispute over possession and use of certain website domain names."
"The matter has been resolved on commercial terms. Yellow Pages Group has agreed to transfer ownership of the contested domain names – which included variations on the word “localist” - to Localist."
Localist has in turn agreed to end the legal action it initiated against Yellow Pages Group earlier this week. As part of the agreement, no further public comment can be made by either party about the terms of the settlement.

Wikileaks.