Feist to sell telephone directory

Lawrence may return to two-book town

Lawrence’s days of having three telephone directories may be numbered.

Wichita-based Feist Publications has signed a deal to sell its business to competitor Yellow Book USA. The deal probably will mean that there will be one fewer telephone directory published next year in Lawrence because both Feist and Yellow Book currently publish Lawrence directories.

John Hartz, a spokesman for Uniondale, N.Y.-based Yellow Book USA, said definitive plans for the Lawrence market had not been made, but it was unlikely the company would continue to print two books. It was uncertain whether the remaining book would have the Feist name or the Yellow Book name.

Feist became the third telephone directory in Lawrence in late 2003 when it printed its first book for the Lawrence, Olathe and Ottawa areas. It joined Yellow Book and SBC.

Several business owners welcomed the news of one less book to advertise in.

“Truthfully, I think having three in town was a bad deal,” said Chris Crockett, manager of Glory Days Pizza, 4821 W. Sixth St. “To advertise in all three of them was almost impossible for a small business.”

Crockett said he didn’t think consumers would mind having one less book to choose from, either.

“People, especially college students, aren’t going to want to keep three books around,” Crockett said. “They’re going to throw a couple away or use one to level their table or something.”

The sale is expected to be final Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Charles Laughlin, an analyst with Princeton, N.J.-based The Kelsey Group, estimated the deal at $150 million. He said Feist did about $63 million a year in revenues.

The deal includes all 20 Feist publications in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Feist employs 272 people. Hartz said Yellow Book would offer jobs to all of the Feist employees. Feist doesn’t have a Lawrence office. Its nearest office is in Kansas City, Kan.

Hartz said Yellow Book was interested in Feist because it boosted the company’s presence in the region.

“It puts Yellow Book in Texas for the first time and it really expands our footprint in Kansas and Oklahoma,” Hartz said. “We’re really working to be the first national network of telephone directories. This acquisition is in line with that trend.”

A spokesman for Feist — which was founded in 1977 by Tom and Roberta Feist of Spearville — said the executives with the family owned company weren’t discussing the sale until it was final.

But Laughlin said Feist officials probably decided to sell because they realized it would be more difficult to compete against larger companies in the future.

“Feist is a relatively small company,” Laughlin said. “If you are a company that size, you have to think about what your future is in an industry that is becoming dominated by large players.”