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Ousted Groupon CEO Andrew Mason Writes the Best Exit Memo Ever

Jeff Macke

[Last night after this piece was published, Groupon (GRPN) announced that Andrew Mason had been ousted as CEO. Given the controversies, operational failings and stock performance since Groupon went public, Mason's departure didn't come as an enormous shock.

What was surprising was the way Mason broke the news to company employees. In an email sent to workers and posted publicly ("since it will leak anyway") Mason was equal parts funny, open and candid. He was actually inspiring to a degree that made it easy to wonder what might have been had he come into the job with more experience and better advisers.

Mason's Memo was his finest moment as a CEO.

His note in full:

People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we've shared over the last few months, and I've never seen you working together more effectively as a global company - it's time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don't be - I love Groupon, and I'm terribly proud of what we've created. I'm OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I'll now take some time to decompress (FYI I'm looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I'll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there's one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what's best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness - don't waste the opportunity!

I will miss you terribly.


Andrew" ]

In its short, ignominious history as a public company, Groupon crushed the hopes of more true believers than Santa Claus and Jim Jones combined. From its closing level on the day of its IPO in November 2011, GRPN shares have lost more than 80%, driven by accounting scandals, an ill-conceived international expansion and generally poor execution of a not-very-smart business model.

Groupon's haplessness shouldn't surprise Breakout viewers. What is fresh information is the company's hideous earnings miss last night when it reported a 12-cent loss versus expectations of a 2-cent gain. For good measure, Groupon also guided revenues for the current quarter to somewhere between $560 and $610 million. Analysts were expecting $650 million.

With Groupon trading 19% lower today, Breakout welcomed OptionMonster.com's Jon Najarian to ask him if there's a trade lurking in the bloodbath. Najarian says the company's best hope is to change its business model in a way that would be more friendly to both consumers and business partners. It's not as crazy a thought as it first seems.

The basic idea is extending the length of the deals being offered. Instead of requiring customers to be constantly checking their inbox for bargains, Groupon would act more like a shopping mall.

A company Groupon acquired last year is already doing the same thing with restaurant deals. Savored lets users make reservations at high quality eateries in major cities all over the country. It's a system that turns one-off transactions into loyal users, especially frequent travelers like Najarian.

"I think it's a shift in the model that's going to work for Groupon," Narjarian says of Savored's way of doing business.

Ok but what about the stock? Najarian thinks there might be a bounce, but not for at least two more days. Citing his "3-day rule" on stock blow ups, he says "I never buy it on the first day and I sometimes wade in on the third day."

In other words, he wants the dust to settle and some of the emotion to abate before jumping in. If and when Najarian decides to take a position, he favors at the money May call options. That way he has defined downside exposure and a long enough time frame to take advantage of any bounce between now and May.

Of course you don't have to even go near the stock. That strategy has been the best way to play Groupon.

***PROGRAMMING NOTE: Be sure to catch Breakout's LIVE sequester special covering the market open on Friday starting at 9:25am/et. Tweet us your comments using #YFINSEQUESTER***