Why Groupon's CEO Deserves Time

Wow, that's going to leave a mark. Imagine this: a company you founded and led to an admittedly over-hyped IPO drops nearly 9% in value based on the news you're staying. Ouch.

That's exactly what Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN  ) founder and CEO Andrew Mason wrestled with over what had to feel like a very long weekend.

Shareholders' angst isn't hard to explain. When Groupon shares were made available to the public a year ago at $20 a share, the celebration at Groupon's Chicago headquarters must have been a whopper. Its stock performance -- or lack thereof -- since is well documented. The question for investors is, was the market's reaction the right one? Did Groupon just become a better value, or is Mason's exit warranted and simply a matter of time?

Investors haven't bought into Groupon's strategy
Whether the market isn't paying attention to what Mason and the Groupon team are doing lately, or simply isn't buying it, is worth considering. Most investors view Groupon as an online deals site, and that's legitimate. But as I pointed out a few weeks ago, Groupon is taking significant steps to remedy the reliance on online coupons as its sole source of revenue. Does anyone care?

A quick recap of some of the November happenings at Groupon includes the elevation of Kal Raman to COO on Nov. 14. Raman was formerly Groupon's senior VP of global sales and operations. Also, in support of its new Groupon Goods retail operations, Groupon announced free shipping, returns, and a Groupon catalog this holiday season. Based on its recent announcement of record results on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Groupon's revenue-generating plans for what is quickly becoming a key business line is working.

A new concept store in Hong Kong was also announced in November, as was the accumulation of $200 million worth of Groupon shares by TigerGlobal Management, a tech-focused $8 billion hedge fund.

The concerns haven't changed
When LivingSocial -- funded in part by Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  )  -- announced it was laying off 10% of its workforce on Nov. 29, it was viewed as confirmation of the industry's "deal fatigue," many analysts' answer to a declining online coupon market. But there's an important distinction between Amazon.com's LivingSocial and Groupon: diversified revenue streams.

Groupon is quickly becoming a solutions provider -- beyond its flagship Groupons -- to (primarily) small and medium-sized businesses. However, the deal with Major League Baseball announced Nov. 29 makes one wonder if there aren't much larger, strategic partnership opportunities out there for Groupon to explore.

There are bigger concerns than LivingSocial in the online deals space. AmazonLocal is Amazon.com's own online coupon business, and with $114 billion in market cap, Amazon.com can't be ignored. The expansion of high-flying Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) and its Gifts service is another big-time player honing in on Groupon's core business.

Facebook Gifts differs from Groupon, and even Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Deals -- another potentially major player because of its ease of use. Unlike Groupon or Google Deals, the simplicity of Facebook Gifts means margin-conscious retailers won't have to discount their items as much. Regardless, as the No. 1 site in the world, Google is another competitor Groupon can't ignore.

New paths forward
Following the drop in Groupon's share price Nov. 30, it went up 1.3% in after-hours trading. Though hardly a definitive, bullish sign, it's worth noting that much of the trading that occurs after hours is done by industry insiders. At 1.3%, the gain in Groupon shares following its sell-off wasn't much, but it confirms traders thought the sell-off was overdone.

With the introduction of multiple new initiatives to expand beyond online coupons under way, conducting a CEO search right now isn't what the Groupon team should focus on. New Groupon offerings including Goods, concept stores, an Apple-specific point-of-sale solution, and merchant payment services, are all new revenue opportunities.

A new, strategic direction takes time, and Mason deserves kudos for both positioning Groupon for revenue growth by introducing multiple business lines, and the time to make them work.

Groupon's story is one of the American Dream. The company went from 400 subscribers in 2008 to over 200 million today. Unfortunately, Groupon's success hasn't been shared by investors. Company shares have fallen over 80% over the past year and left investors panicked. Will this company live out its American Dream, or leave shareholders empty-handed? In order to answer that question, our analyst has compiled a premium research report with in-depth analysis on whether you should buy or sell Groupon right now, and why. Simply click here now to get started.


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  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2012, at 5:19 PM, biztexter wrote:

    Groupon will be just fine. They are more than a coupon site. They are a way for a small business to save tens of thousands of dollars in initial marketing costs simply by discounting their goods temporarily.

    As long as people want deals and businesses want growth Groupon is here to stay. They are innovative and are adding new technologies that will transform their core products from one hit wonders to long term reoccurring revenue streams.

    Their stock is a bargain at this point!

  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2012, at 7:34 PM, seattle1115 wrote:

    When I first read the headline, I misunderstood and thought the author was suggesting that the CEO deserves time *in prison*. I was imagining a much more colorful article than this one, I can assure you!

  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2012, at 8:12 PM, timbrugger wrote:

    seattle1115,

    Unfortunately, there are probably shareholders who invested closer to Groupon's IPO price that would agree. But as biztexter put it, the stocks a bargain at these levels, particularly as Mason avoids *time*, allowing him to focus on multiple revenue streams instead of lawyers!

    Thanks for the post, Tim.

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