09
Oct
What do Idearc, FairPoint, and Hawaiian Telecom all have in common?
posted October 9, 2009 in Advertising & Marketing | Dallas - Fort Worth print Yellow Pages | DaLLAS area news | Dallas PPC Optimization | Dallas Search Engine Marketing | Dallas Search Engine Optimization | Local Print Yellow Page Company Information | Politics & Government | YellowCrooks.com Information

Here is an article that I have been biting my knuckles trying to keep quiet about.
WSJ Comments On Idearc Bankruptcy & Verizon Culpability : Natural Search Blog

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I read this article via a former employee of Idearc, one the Search Engine Marketing Industries most respected SEO consultants and who many believe to the the foremost experts on Local Search Marketing in the World, Chris Smith. Chris was formerly head of Idearc’s Search Engine Marketing team on the fella that helped put Superpages.com on the first page of Google. Chris did a tremendous job in the early day’s of local search beating other Internet Yellow Page Sites, such as YellowPages.com and Local.com (competing with keyword rich domains in the space is a challenge)

So the question is…. what do Idearc Media, FairPoint, and Hawaiian Telecom all have in common? They are all companies that Verizon spun off to fund Wireless and Fiber/TV/FIOS initiatives. Chris states, “Verizon might have some responsibility for the bankruptcies of Idearc, Hawaiian Telecom and FairPoint Communications”.

He also states:

In the case of Idearc, the business unit was too small to cause the great corporate mother ship to founder, and it’s the Verizon spin-off debt load it was saddled with that caused it to be unable to function in the first place. He misses the point that Verizon took too much money out of the spinoff deals. Those weren’t existing debts associated with those business units prior to their divestment.

These companies wouldn’t have “gone under” within Verizon. It’s possible that if a business unit starts to lose money for a quarter or two, the board would naturally require it to correct itself in some way.

I completely agree. I also think that the folks that worked for Ivan at Idearc at the time were over eager to accept whatever deal they could in order to be relieved of the burden of being under the Verizon direction. I don’t think it was smart of Kathy Harless and her team to take on such a debt burden…… seriously, over $9,000,000,000.00 for a company that has been losing its business to Google and Yellowbook and other competitors since 2001? It must have felt very confident on new product ideas such as Solutions at Home, Solutions Direct Mail, and Solutions on the Move! Nonetheless, the company would have never been able to create these new ideas and products under Verizon. Verizon used the Yellow Pages division as a cash cow to fund other ventures, then did it again when it unloaded debt on the smaller divisions.

I have a site that I am going to build: www.YellowCrooks.com, as I recently purchased the domain thanks to the idea from a former co-worker. He gave me the idea while being forced to watch an hour long rediculous “cocksure” video about sales, sales, and more sales. In my opinion sales was not the issue. The product offer and fulfillment was the major problem. (I have the credentials to state this since I was regarded as the most knowledgeable internet media consultant in the company {hey a FIGJAM moment for myself} and also have 3 President’s Awards for “Sales” in my 6.5 years in the division.) With the site I want folks to discuss what Verizon did. With all the transparency about Countrywide Mortgage and other recent events…. .why not?

Chris continues to state:

But, arguably these companies experienced a much higher degree of financial problems due to the extremely high debt they were required to service subsequent to spinoff. These spinoffs funded Verizon’s FiOS expansion — a gigantic project that was paid for by Verizon offloading the investment costs to the companies it spunoff.

It will be interesting to see if the Securities and Exchange Commission gives Verizon a pass on their spinoffs of bankrupt companies as Newmark seems to think reasonable, or if they don’t respond in some way to consumer and state government complaints.

In my opinion his comments are exactly why Idearc will have issues completing the bankruptcy. If I recall the company is going to come out with approx. 3 billion in debt when it emerges in Dec09/Jan10.

According to WebWire Press Release:

Idearc filed for voluntary chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to renegotiate its debt. Although Idearc was not technically bankrupt with over $500 million cash in the bank and net cash flow of $300 million per year, the weak economy spurred creditors into lowering the outstanding debt from $9 billion down to $3 billion along with more flexible payment terms. One of the terms is that Idearc give anything over $150 million in their bank account to creditors in order to pay down the $3 billion in debt. Essentially, Idearc will always have $150 million in the bank and anything over that will be taken out to pay down debt. Idearc’s 3 billion dollar debt has a note rate of 12%, the annual debt service is $360 million dollars, about 12.1% of 2008 gross annual revenue. The creditors/lenders have already approved the reduction in debt. The company is now waiting for approval from its board and the bankruptcy judge. According to the new deal, Idearc must give the creditors $250 million from its cash reserves as a sign of good faith. This will put Idearc’s cash position at approximately $250 million after the deal is completed

I hope the folks at the Downtown Courthouse in Dallas are taking all this into account! I know the counsel for the unsecured creditors is sure going to put pressure on fiduciary responsibility of Verizon. But in my opinion (or should I say prediction is) Verizon will probably buy Idearc back in some Bernie Madoff type crony deal and leave shareholders with pocket lint. Why? Because this is America! Heck, Verizon offered a separations package to folks that left the company and put it in writing that folks would not be hired back, yet these folks were later rehired after taking the Voluntary Separation Package with very nice severance packages. Do I blame the cocksure guy from Pepsi? Nope! Not for the burden. But it kinda makes me think of folks saying that Obama is not to blame for Bush’s choices. Well….. that might not be a good example…. or might just be?? Obama’s choice to put my kids in debt with the “Spendulus Plan” and Bail Outs might compare to turning “America’s local ad agencies” into a telemarketing service or abandon the internet business in favor of trying to keep the print alive. Honestly I have heard rumors (like I said!!! RUMOR!!!) about Idearc not wanting to stick with the .com product it offers since all it can muster is riding the coattails of Google and Yahoo in search. Margins in print make it easy to have 3000 “sales” reps. The smaller margins in .com might move the company towards that of a Media Buying Ad Agency and the company might follow in Google’s self automated pricing structure. Why should prices of ads be so darn “negotiable”?

I’d go a bit further and also agree with Chris and state “that if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, it’s a rat”.

In the meantime….. y’all wish me luck….. I am hoping to start a company doing what I do best……

HELPING DALLAS AREA BUSINESS OWNERS REACH THE TOP OF GOOGLE AND MAKE MONEY!

Oh, yeah…. I think I am going to offer to create PPC campaigns for FREE and not charge a management fee or have you sign a contract…. Might be the wave of the future. Call me for details. FREE Google PPC Campaigns are subject to me providing my SEO services. Although technically I am not in business… maybe I can show folks how profitable SEO can be!