Seat Pagine Gialle, the troubled Italian search and directory company, placed its UK subsidiary Thomson Local into “administration” yesterday (the UK equivalent of receivership). Thomson immediately dismissed its field sales team in summary fashion. The company appeared poised for liquidation, but today, a newly formed company called Corporate Media Partners acquired Thomson and appears to have rescued it from liquidation.
Seat has faced its own financial challenges, having sought the equivalent of bankruptcy protection in Italy. The company did not issue any statement explaining its decision to place Thomson into administration.
The acquisition could save as many as 320 jobs, which is the difference between Thomson’s payroll on Tuesday and the 170 employees fired on yesterday.
The principals of Corporate Media Partners are Paul Spinks and Patrick Bradshaw. Bradshaw is a former Yell sales manager and also worked at Thomson in business development. The two also operate 118 Information (a directory assistance data service) and e-Location, an email marketing company.
The mass firings in Thomson’s field sales operation plus the combination of telesales and email marketing from the new ownership’s portfolio offers some clues to how a reorganized Thomson might operate, by selling a broader portfolio through a lower cost sales platform.
Both 118 Information and e-Location are data centered businesses with active call centers focused on Britain’s small-business market. According to its website, 118 Information maintains a database of 2 million business records, and its contacts each record at least once a year to verify data. The company says it has about 70 employees. B2B focused email marketer e-Location claims on its website that it maintains 750,000 “opt-in decision makers” in its email database.
The new owners offered statements that suggest they will continue operating the core Thomson business in some form.
“This is a hugely important addition to our existing suite of businesses, and we are excited by the challenge that this acquisition offers. To own such a brand as Thomson Local is hugely satisfying,” Spinks said.
Bradshaw added: “Thomson Local is a major brand in the UK which achieves instant recognition and we are excited by the prospect of delivering a range of relevant advertising, new media and information packages to today’s SME. We also believe that the Thomson Online Directory offering will be a useful resource from which a number of our larger licensing customers can benefit.”
Thomson Local is the UK’s second largest directory publisher, concentrating on local directories and digital products and services. In 2012, Thomson Local generated revenues of 57.1 million euros, 6.2 percent decline in constant currency. In the first quarter of 2013, the decline accelerated to 22.2 percent. Some of that 22.2 percent was related to publication shifts, but still represented an accelerating drop in revenue.
Thomson made several moves in 2012 in an effort to cut costs, improve margins and boost traffic. The company trimmed field sales by 30 reps and telesales by 44, while redirecting its sales efforts to higher margin products. The company also overhauled its online directory, thomsonlocal.com, which did provide a bump in traffic.