When Groupon first floated on the Nasdaq in November 2011, critics questioned whether its business model was sustainable. Now investors are ditching their shares in droves, and Groupon’s share price has collapsed by 77%.
CEO Andrew Mason has taken the rap and his exit confirms a disastrous split in the company which he formed with Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. The business is a mere four years old and has become a byword for unpredictability - a rollercoaster ride from which cash comes tumbling from the corporate vehicle.
Mason’s dismissal will, however, be noted principally for the candid nature of his farewell email to his staff. Mason is well known as a bit of an oddball having previously posted video material of himself on YouTube doing yoga in his underwear.
He also, on one occasion, swigged from a bottle of beer as he addressed his staff about corporate goals including boosting financial controls.
His heartfelt farewell begins in a 21st century "Friends , Romans and countryman way" with "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."
It is rare to see this degree of candour in the announcement of such a departure and it would be interesting to know if Mason ran the contents of his missive past the company’s lawyers and HR department who normally have the combined effect of making such letters equivocal in the extreme.
When Groupon floated back in 2011 – helped by the underwriting skills of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse - Mason warned that "This will at times be a bumpy ride." With the share price now in the toilet and many questioning the very business model on which the company operates, those who steered clear did well to take him at his word.