The Groupon Inc. (Nasdaq: GRPN) leader and founder just might find himself looking for a new gig as reports have surfaced that the company's board could ask him to step down. The board is set to meet today (Thursday) to discuss the company and Mason.
Mason admits there have been "bumps in the road." Yet with GRPN shares down some 80% from its November 2011 initial public offering price of $20, it's more fitting to call Groupon's recent performance a train wreck.
Speaking this week at the Business Insider Ignition 2012 conference in New York, Mason said, "If I ever thought I wasn't the right guy for the job, I'd be the first person to fire myself."
Mason also confessed to Business Insider's Henry Blodget, "It would be weird if the board wasn't discussing if I was the right guy for the job."
But, the fraught CEO added "that he was confident that wasn't going to happen."
Yet, market participants appeared more confident that it just might happen, and sent shares up 12% Wednesday after the buzz surfaced.
The Problems with Groupon CEO Andrew MasonAttempting to explain the Chicago-based company's dramatic slide from the high of $31.14 reached following its debut and its lofty $17.4 billion market valuation (shares are currently trading at a mere fraction of that), Mason blamed Groupon's international business. Growing at a paltry 3% in the third quarter, Europe's woes have weighed on profits.
But he stressed things here state side are doing just fine.
"We have a North American business that's growing... that's really the model for what Groupon can be. Because of our strategy to grow quickly (in Europe) and capture market share, we didn't invest in technology like we did in North America... we're paying for that now. We now have the playbook, it's the playbook for North America."
Trying to highlight the good news, Mason added that Groupon Goods, which universally features bargains on some of the most current and "coolest" products, has been a successful development. Just after one year, Groupon Goods booked some $500 million in revenue and reached an annual run rate of almost $1.5 billion.
"Goods has taken us by surprise and in order to serve customer demand, we give more of your Daily Deal real estate to Goods deals and not just local deals. Good deals are today lower margin, still healthy margins, but it has a short-term impact on the profitability of the business. We're a growth company. We're focused on doing the right thing for customers, margins are something we can optimize over the long term," Mason detailed.
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Mason Inquires on Groupon BankruptcyA slew of Groupon cynics, now looking a lot like soothsayers, contended a year or two back that the company would never have what it takes to make money and would eventually succumb to bankruptcy.
The predictions trailed the startling disclosure that Mason once asked his CFO what it would take for Groupon to get to that point. A flood of media coverage that followed questioned if Groupon was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, and battered the already beaten-down shares.
Mason admits he prodded his CFO about the disturbing rumors.
Mason clarified in an exclusive interview with Business Insider that he posed the question as a highly unlikely, worst-case outcome.
"The scenario is so absurd and out there," Mason said, that it would require "severe negative growth for a sustained period" for such a state to actually materialize.
Ahead of the board meeting Thursday, Groupon shares were up nearly 2% to $4.50.
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The Wall Street Journal:
Groupon's Andrew Mason: "I'd Be the First Person to Fire Myself"
Groupon CEO Andrew Mason Once Asked His CFO What It Would Take For The Company to Go Bankrupt
Beleaguered Groupon CEO says would fire himself if needed
Fox Business News:
Groupon CEO Mason Says He Remains Right Person To Run Company