Groupon CEO fired, finally

By Andrew Birmingham on Mar 1, 2013 9:27 AM
Filed under Finance

Mason: "I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today".

Groupon, the daily deals pioneer - and increasingly the whipping boy of a suspect business model -  fired its founder and CEO Andrew Mason yesterday after the release of its most recent financial results.

Just hours earlier Mason had opened a financial analyst conference call telling the money men, "Q4 provided the best evidence yet that customers love Groupons."

It turns out, however, that the money men only love money, and that the only real evidence the conference call provided was the extent of Mason's disconnection from fiscal reality.

The board waited until the markets closed to make the announcement by which time the stock had already dropped by over 20 per cent.

“After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today.” Mason wrote in a memo to staff.

“If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

The controversial company which rebuked takeover overtures from Google, surged to a 50 per cent gain on its first day on the Nasdaq then watched its price tank from over $30 to under $3 during the following year. It has been beset with problems; from scepticism about its business model, poor results, and  terrible accounting practices.

The company's share price staged a brief recovery last year shortly after savage cuts to its customer acquisition budgets. Coincidently those savage cuts allowed it to deliver a better-than-expected financial result which lifted the share price – just weeks before the pre-IPO investors were allowed to sell their shares.

Rumours about Mason getting fired started surfacing late last year, and yesterday the company finally acted.

The following is the text of Andrew Mason's memo to staff: 

People of Groupon

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we've shared over the last few months, and I've never seen you working together more effectively as a global company - it's time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don't be - I love Groupon, and I'm terribly proud of what we've created. I'm OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I'll now take some time to decompress (FYI I'm looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I'll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there's one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what's best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness - don't waste the opportunity!

I will miss you terribly.

Love,
Andrew

 
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