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Groupon CEO Departs, Honestly

2013 February 28
by John Wallbillich

CEOs of publicly-held companies leave with some regularity. It’s typically “retirement,” “other interests,” or “new strategic direction.”

We often know what really happened, but accept the duty to read between the lines like rookie CIA analysts deciphering Pravda editorials during the Cold War.

So when Groupon CEO Andrew Mason departed today, he did so with an amazing memo to staff. Here is the opening paragraph to the “People of Groupon,” via press reports:

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.

I don’t expect to ever see a memo like this again. And that’s too bad.

CNN is reporting a severance package valued at $378.36 (this is corrected thanks to reader Jonathan’s comment, below). Looks like honesty in severance as well.

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. Jonathan permalink
    March 1, 2013

    John, I think the last two sentences aren’t right. The CNN article reports that his severance package is $378.36 (no millions). To be sure, he still has stock worth quite a bit of money (> $200 million), but the severance package itself appears not to be an issue.

    On the larger point, though, your post is spot-on. It’s refreshing to see someone acknowledge their responsibility for failure. What is that chestnut: “success has many fathers while failure is an orphan”?

  2. John Wallbillich permalink*
    March 1, 2013

    Jonathan:

    Good catch, I was only off by about $375 million!

    Mr. Mason’s refreshing honesty may not always have helped as a CEO; it certainly strengthens his reputation as a person of integrity.

    This is why I usually never post in the evening after the proverbial second glass of a discount cabernet.

    ~ John

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