Groupon CEO Responds to Firing Rumors

News broke yesterday that certain board members at Groupon were considering ousting founder and CEO Andrew Mason, apparently news to Mason and other members of the board. The anonymous sources linked to the discussions told the Wall Street Journal “fractures” and “clashes” were occurring between Mason and board members Eric Lefkosky and Brad Keywell. The leaked information forced Mason to defend his position at a scheduled New York conference rather than promoting his company, which has struggled to remain relevant in a declining daily deals market.

Here’s a news flash,” he told reporters. “Our stock is down about 80 percent since we IPO’d a year ago. It would be weird if the board wasn’t discussing whether I’m the right guy to do the job. It’s actually their chief responsibility to ask that question, as they have asked that question in the past. The only thing unusual is that it’s showing up in the newspapers.

University of Delaware corporate governance expert Charles Elson told the Chicago Tribune the leak could have been a trial to see how the stock market would react to news of Mason’s dismissal. An outcry of support for Mason would kill the issue before it went to a vote. And Wall Street certainly reacted to the leak. After Mason’s Wednesday appearance Groupon shares skyrocketed, closing up 11 percent at $4.42. The increase suggests investors may be pleased with Mason’s response to the leak, suggesting he may yet the fiasco.

Still, although the stab in the back may have been unwarranted, board members have some valid claims to consider. The 32-year-old college music major has little business experience prior to starting Groupon. Although he saw the company guided the company to massive success, growing from nothing to $2.5 billion in revenue in less than four years’ time. Still, although the company continues to make money, is it time for Groupon to follow in the footsteps of other major tech companies and retire its founder in favor of a more seasoned business professional?

It’s an oft-told, oft-expected story that the genius entrepreneur steps aside when he or she succeeds at building a company big enough to need an experienced CEO,” University of Michigan business teacher Erik Gordon told Bloomberg. “The Google guys did it, and the results were spectacular.

Mason and the world will soon find out, as the board is expected to discuss his fate at its meeting today. But he believes he can still lead his company to success.

If I thought I wasn’t the guy, I, as the founder and creator of Groupon, as a large shareholder, as a customer who loves the products that we’ve created, I care far more about the success of the business than I care about my role as CEO,” Mason said at the Business Insider conference. “I don’t need that to feel good about what I’ve achieved.