Our Eighth Nominee for Worst CEO of the Year: Andrew Mason

My praise and contempt for CEO actions are pretty well known around these parts. I've been running a weekly series looking at CEO gaffes for nearly 10 months now (with seemingly endless material, may I add), and recently I've begun highlighting incredible CEOs who deserve a pat on the back. Last year, I even listed my 10 best CEOs of the year and my 10 worst.

However, this year, we're changing things up a bit and putting the ball in your court! This year, The Motley Fool community is going to decide who the best CEO of the year is, and which CEO should be banished to a distant island.

Each week, for the past eight weeks, I've highlighted one CEO who's worthy of being called the best CEO of 2012, as well as a CEO who I think could easily be called the worst. In total, you and your community members will have eight great CEOs and eight not-so-great ones to choose from when voting commences next week. For reference, here is last week's worst CEO nominee. In the meantime, I encourage you to get the discussion started on the CEO of the Week board.

Without further ado, I give you the eighth and final nominee for worst CEO of the year: Andrew Mason, CEO of daily deal site Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN  ) .

Why Andrew Mason?

  • Multiple accounting issues: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me! That's precisely how Groupon shareholders have to feel following multiple accounting issues that have rocked the company over the past year-plus under Mason's leadership and have resulted in a "material weakness" warning from the company's auditors. In September 2011, prior to Groupon's IPO, the Securities and Exchange Commission nudged the company to change the way it recognized revenue from the full value of a coupon to what merchants received as revenue. The restatement more than halved 2010 revenue to $313 million from $713 million. If you thought, "lesson learned," then you'd be wrong again! In late March the company yet again announced the need to restate earnings (on a Friday after the bell nonetheless) to account for higher cash reserves as it dealt with higher price-point social daily deals that could necessitate refunds. This restatement reduced fourth-quarter revenue by $14.3 million and pushed losses even higher by $22.6 million. Furthermore, Groupon agreed to update certain aspects of its accounting procedures as requested by the SEC last week, but stopped short of complying with all requests.
  • Failure to differentiate his business or product: In addition to a flurry of accounting gaffes, Mason should be in the hot seat for failure to differentiate his business from his peers. According to Yipit Research, Groupon's daily deal market share has risen to 49%, yet daily deal euphoria is beginning to decline as July daily deal revenue shrank 7% in July when this study was conducted. Part of the problem, which may not be apparent from Groupon's short-term market share gains, is increased competition from the likes of LivingSocial, which received a $150 million investment from Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) which is doling out deals via its Maps application, and Yahoo! and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) which have gone the more simple route of using their cash and clout to parcel out daily deals. All four of these companies have much larger cash reserves than Groupon, so Mason's inability to reduce the daily deal barrier-to-entry rests squarely on his shoulders.
  • Disappointing results: Groupon has the most amazing ability to turn strong revenue growth into earnings disappointment after earnings disappointment. In Groupon's latest quarter, it recorded a 45% increase in revenue, but it translated into a tiny GAAP profit of just $0.04. In fact, Groupon has a long way to go until it's recouped its cumulative losses since inception. With many pundits still questioning the longevity of the daily deal business model, Groupon's inability to grow EPS in accord with revenue is only adding fuel to the fire.
  • Poor stock performance: The final nail in Andrew Mason's coffin has to be Groupon's miserable stock performance. Year-to-date, Groupon's share price has fallen 82%, rivaling some of the worst performers across all sectors. Accounting boo-boos, poor results, and little differentiation and perceived longevity, make Mason a logical choice for the final nominee for worst CEO of the year.

Is Andrew Mason the worst CEO of the year? That's going to be up to you and the rest of The Motley Fool community to decide. In the meantime, be sure to hit up the CEO of the Week board to voice your opinion to the community.

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