UK

Groupon Fires Its CEO Andrew Mason As Losses Widen To £53.5m

01/03/2013 09:51 GMT

Groupon, the internet daily deals website, has dramatically fired its chief executive Andrew Mason after the company's share price continued to dive after disappointing results.

Mason – known in tech and start up circles for his atypical sense of humour – wrote a spectacularly sarcastic letter telling his staff of his fate, in which he confessed he was getting in the way of the company he co-founded just a few years ago, and had failed in his role as leader.

He wrote: "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."

Co-founder Eric Lefkofsky and board member Ted Leonsis will now lead the company in the interim, until a permanent chief executive is found.

The full memo:

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

Groupon's rapid rise and fall is one of the most prominent in the world of tech startups - it rode wave of hype in 2010 and 2011, styling itself as a new Internet player that would make profit off new trends such as social networking and local e-commerce.

But after going public in 2011, the initial promises were difficult to keep. Groupon's costly international expansion, particularly into economically troubled Europe, began to erode growth and margins.

Macquarie Research analyst Tom White told Dawn.com: "Groupon is a very large, very complex multifaceted global business. It's got ambitions in a lot of different areas and categories.They are either going to have to find somebody who is a proven executer in handling complex businesses, or maybe this is a signal they are going to simplify."

On Wednesday, Groupon's latest results showed its net loss widened to $81.1 million (£53.5m). Combined with shrinking margins, declining cash flow and projected weaker-than-expected sales for the current quarter, it was of little surprise that Mason would be forced out.

B Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha told the Wall Street Journal that the lesson for private companies now considering an IPO is "if we don't have a good handle on our business let's not do an IPO (initial public offering). Just stay private, because the public markets are brutal."