Groupon CEO’s Farewell Memo: Touching Transparency or Too Little, Too Late?

Groupon’s making some executive-level changes in their company structure, the biggest one being the ousting of creator and CEO Andrew Mason. The daily deal site’s popularity skyrocketed and quickly became a startup darling, leading to a ridiculous valuation of $1.35 billion in April 2010. However, critics panned the site’s problematic business model, calling it a “disaster” and “loansharking,” and sure enough, the daily deal hype eventually died down. Groupon’s since been struggling to claw their way back to their 2010-era heyday after its fourth-quarter loss of $98.million in 2011 and its subsequent steadily declining revenue.

One of the decisions in an effort to shake things up included firing Andrew Mason and temporarily bringing on Executive Chairman Eric Lefkofsky and Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis until a more permanent replacement is discovered. Mason appeared to have handled the sacking quite eloquently, as indicated by his farewell memo that was posted on Business Insider. He made a couple jokes (including a nerd gamer-approved Battletoads reference), took responsibility for Groupon’s chronic problems as of late, and praised the leadership change as the best decision for the success of the company he founded.

Some of my marketing colleagues cheered for Mason’s transparency:

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Other friends, however, remained critical of Mason for being an incompetent CEO who made poor decisions:

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I can see both sides here, and personally I’m somewhat torn. I’m a huge fan of internal transparency (keeping your employees updated on company news and decisions), but I’m critical of excessive public oversharing (in my opinion, there’s a fine line between transparency and self-absorption). The writer in me appreciates how Mason’s memo was constructed — it was amusing, honest, and impassioned. And while I’m as stubborn as they come, I pride myself in owning up to my mistakes and admitting when I’m wrong, and I tip my hat to Mason for doing the same in his memo. It’s not easy to admit you’ve failed, especially in a highly scrutinized public setting.

But Mason stumbled over and over and over again, and we’re left wondering if Groupon has hit the point of no return, if it has spiraled downward for so long that it’ll be seemingly impossible to restore it to its glory days. MySpace and Digg haven’t been able to recover from repeated marketing and design disasters, and Groupon’s critics are blaming Mason for setting his company up for the same fate. If you ask these folks, Mason’s memo is “Too little, too late” — he finally admits to his failures and says Groupon deserves better direction, but only when there’s a foot pushing his ass out the door.

Where do you stand on Mason’s memo? Do you applaud his honesty and his unflinching transparency, or are you wondering where the hell those sentiments were months (or even years) ago?

About Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca is the Editor in Chief for Reputation Management, an online resource for businesses and individuals who want to keep their online reputation in check. In her spare time she trains for marathons and triathlons and writes about her experience at Mediocre Athlete, as well as makes fun of her Asian mother over at My Korean Mom.

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3 Comments

Brian LaFrance

It was time for him to go and it was too little, too late. Inspring or not, he clearly wasn’t running the place very well. I’m actually surprised he’s lasted as long as he has.

Michael Halvorsen

Yep. Too late. Everyone keeps forgetting Google offered them $6,000,000,000 fucking dollars. Why on earth did they turn down $6B for a company that they knew wouldn’t scale with such a huge sales force?

Nuts.

Andrew Goodman

Let’s put it this way, if his name was “Manson,” not Mason, would people be applauding the “transparent” tone of a letter? Mason’s scheme to enrich himself and some investment bankers via a broken business model was premeditated, in my opinion.

Also IMO, the Google offer wasn’t firm. If it was a firm offer they would have taken it.

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