BY MICHAEL J. DE LA MERCED
AT&T said on Monday that it had agreed to sell a majority stake in its yellow pages business to Cerberus Capital Management for about $950 million, giving the private equity firm an opportunity to resuscitate a declining operation.
Under the terms of the deal, which had been expected for months, AT&T will receive $750 million in cash and a $200 million note. It will keep a 47 percent stake in the business, which is composed of AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive.
The deal will allow AT&T to shed a business that has been rendered largely obsolete, having lost ground over the years to sites like Google and Yelp. Other telecommunications companies have already disposed of their yellow pages units.
AT&T has increasingly focused on its higher-growth wireless and Internet operations. Together, the two units contributed $3.3 billion of the parent’s $126.7 billion in revenue last year.
The two units will be under the control of Cerberus, which has staked its reputation on an ability to turn around businesses that are out of favor. While the phone book segment — now called AT&T Real Yellow Pages — is in decline, it generates cash flow, which appeals to a private equity firm.
Any growth potential in the business is likely to come from the Yellow Pages’ online and mobile initiatives. YP.com, the online home of the Yellow Pages, competes with other providers of Internet-based advertising and local search. The business also has developed mobile phone applications. YP.com began offering daily deals last year to compete with the likes of Groupon.
Cerberus is probably best known for its ill-fated, boom-era acquisitions of Chrysler and GMAC. The firm, which is based in New York City and raising money for a new fund, has recently been an aggressive buyer of distressed real estate assets.