Last week's announcement that R.H. Donnelley will acquire
the SBC directories for Illinois and Northwest Indiana puts
R.H. Donnelley into the exclusive club of global Yellow Pages
publishers generating at least US$1 billion in annual revenue.
The acquisition also signals R.H. Donnelley's complete transformation
from a sales agent with a cloudy future into a full-fledged
integrated directory publisher that has aggressive plans to
compete and grow in an increasingly competitive environment.
The properties involved comprise the DonTech partnership that
has been jointly managed by SBC and R.H. Donnelley for decades,
but in recent years has proven an ineffective structure for
managing a competitive directory operation. Something had
to give in this relationship, and in the end, SBC decided
that it was better off exiting the relationship.
now has a free hand to manage this business as it sees fit,
and the general expectation is that the business will perform
better with a focused owner willing to make the necessary
investment to support the business in its competitive battle
with challenger Yellow Book USA. In the span of a little more
than 18 months, R.H. Donnelley has gone from hired Yellow
Pages sales agent to top-10 global Yellow Pages company. The
market conditions are vastly different from when Reuben H.
Donnelley moved to Chicago 140 years ago, but like then, the
business challenges will abound.