“Is the board going to fire you tomorrow?” That was the first thing Business Insider’s Henry Blodget asked Groupon (s GRPN) CEO Andrew Mason at the Business Insider Ignition conference Wednesday, amid reports that Mason may be pushed out of his role as CEO.
AllThingsD and other media outlets reported Tuesday that “discussions about Mason’s tenure as CEO have increased as its stock has dropped precipitously. That has prompted its directors and management to seek to find a way to get the company on more stable footing as a business and, perhaps more importantly, with investors.”
“News flash: Our stock is down about 80 percent since we IPO’d a year ago,” Mason said. “It would be weird if the board wasn’t discussing whether I’m the right guy to do the job… the only thing unusual is that it’s showing up in the newspapers.”
But Mason claims “Groupon’s a special kind of company. When you’re creating a new category, there’s going to be bumps along the road and things that can’t be predicted.” The company is “unlock[ing] local commerce and plug[ging] it into the web,” Mason said. “I’ve seen Groupon crush the most seasoned professionals. What Groupon needs from the CEO role is consistent leadership.”
Groupon had two big surprises in the past year, Mason said. The first one was that “the performance of the international business has been in steady decline. That’s been a major impediment on the growth and an obfuscator in the story of Groupon.” He described it as “a tale of two businesses.”
The second surprise was the popularity of goods. “We’ll run a deal for a Garmin GPS device and sell 30,000 in eight hours. There’s never been an outlet for something like that,” Mason claimed — though many other companies, like Amazon (s AMZN) (which owns Groupon competitor LivingSocial), run flash deals on goods. The company is “absolutely not” building out an Amazon-like service with fulfillment and shipping. “The way we think of goods is a way to strengthen that core, daily deals value proposition.”