Groupon founder Andrew Mason notified employees that he was "fired" as CEO as a result of the deal-of-the-day site's poor financial performance and missed targets since going public.
"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," Mason wrote in a memo to the "People of Groupon."
Mason said he posted the memo on a public site "since it will leak anyway."
Groupon emerged from Chicago-based political activism website ThePoint.com in late 2008 as the brainchild of Mason and with a $1 million (£660,000) investment from Eric Lefkofsky, offering its first online coupon deal for pizza at a restaurant in its own building. The company made strategic acquisitions to expand its reach and went public on 4 November 2011 —raising $700 million (£461 million) and surpassing expectations for its initial public offering.
But while the company helped set the stage for a new era of tech IPOs, culminating in Facebook's IPO last May, the bloom quickly came off Groupon and fellow web 2.0 darlings like Zynga.
Mason was blunt about the coupon site's financial troubles under his guidance.
"If you're wondering why [I was fired], 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," he wrote in his goodbye letter.
Mason didn't indicate that Groupon's board of directors had a successor in mind for for the chief executive positon yet, or where that person would come from, only saying that the board "is aligned behind the strategy we've shared over the last few months."
The dismissal of a founder soon after a company goes public isn't particularly shocking, according to Charley Polachi, founder and partner of executive search firm Polachi.
"I'm not surprised. They were a category creator, but had no defensive features. With a market jammed with copycats, and stocks tanking, the CEO pays the price," Polachi said Thursday. "Founders are rarely around post-IPO or as companies grow to the size his did. We've seen this played out before."
For his part, Mason seemed to be in decent spirits about the whole thing, saying he was "okay with having failed at this part of the journey." He said he was planning to "take some time to decompress" and even jokingly asked Groupon staffers for "fat camp" suggestions that might help him "lose my Groupon 40."