In the wake of Tuesday’s news that Andrew Mason might be on the hot seat, the Groupon CEO took the stage at Business Insider’s Ignition conference today to speak with BI’s Henry Blodget — a man who knows a thing or two about speculation-fueled meteoric rises and difficult crashes.
Blodget started off by asking if Mason was going to lose his job at Groupon’s board meeting tomorrow. The CEO explained that the recent round of media speculation talked about how the board (of which he is a member) was simply going to discuss his performance as CEO — which is something it should be doing.
“Our stock is down about 80 percent since we IPO’d a year ago,” he said. “It would be weird if the board wasn’t discussing whether I’m the right guy to do the job. It’s 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.”
Then, Mason pitched himself as the man for the job.
“As a board member I can give you my perspective on it: There’s no question that we’ve had bumps in the road, but Groupon has created not just a business, but an entirely new category,” he said, citing $5 billion in yearly bookings and the “thousands” of companies Groupon has fended off in the 48 countries in which it currently operates. “If I ever thought I wasn’t the right guy for the job, I would be the first guy to fire myself. I care much more about the success of Groupon than being CEO.”
Later, he continued along the same line of reasoning, saying: “What Groupon needs from the CEO role is consistent leadership, stability, the ability to attract a strong team, and a winning strategy and consistent execution against that strategy. I’m flattered that people would think that replacing me would eliminate some of these bumps, but I think it’s the team that I’ve put in place and the strategy they are going to execute against this opportunity to unlock local commerce and plug it into the web.”
Groupon currently has around 12,000 employees trying to do just that. Blodget asked Mason about morale — how the depressed stock and the negative press affected staffers who signed on to work at a cool, up-and-coming company and now found themselves in the employ of a much-maligned firm. Mason countered that the struggles weeded out the employees who were only on board because Groupon was the latest trend.
“What you’re left with are the true believers,” he said. “You’re left with people who are willing to suffer the questions of their family and friends because they see this beautiful business model being applied to local commerce and the enormous opportunity in front of us. They realize that the pain they are going to undertake for the next few months is part of the journey. We’ll look back at these war stories and be proud that we went through that, be proud that we had the opportunity to prove the world wrong. There’s something romantic about that.”
Noah Davis is a senior editor at Street Fight.