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Question may not be who will lead Groupon, but who will buy it

Updated: April 6, 2013 6:22AM



Speculation about a new leader for Groupon centers on whether Groupon’s board of directors wants to sell the company or find a hero to rescue it.

Executive recruiter Adam Charlson of DHR International said Monday he believes Google, Facebook and perhaps Microsoft will make buyout offers while “there is some chaos in [Groupon’s] leadership ranks.”

Since Groupon is worth $2.8 billion today, compared with Google’s 2010 offer to buy Groupon for $6 billion, a new offer now would likely be lower than Groupon’s current value, said Charlson, managing director of DHR’s West Coast offices.

Charlson said if he were a Groupon board member, he would advocate for a sale, especially given Groupon’s dismal fiscal results. The daily deal site announced a day before CEO and foudner Andrew Mason’s ouster a widening net loss and lower-than-expected forecast sales and operating results.

A Groupon spokesman said Monday there is no change in the ownership stakes of Mason and co-founding investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. Together, the three represent 54.5 percent of the voting power of Groupon’s outstanding capital stock.

Shares of Groupon have gained nearly 20 percent since the company announced Mason’s departure. They gained 32 cents, or 6.3 percent, Monday, closing at $5.42.

If Groupon decides to find a turnaround expert, there is no shortage of names mentioned, Charlson said.

He cited as possible CEO candidates to succeed Mason former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel; former OpenTable CEO Jeff Jordan; former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar; Redbox founder Gregg Kaplan; Akamai CEO Paul Sagan; Weather Channel Companies CEO David Kenny, formerly with Akamai, and Yahoo’s former interim CEO Ross Levinsohn.

Edward Woo, analyst for Ascendiant Capital Markets, said Groupon was a victim of its own success, as its leaders’ expectations “got ahead of themselves.”

“A new CEO will not change that,” Woo said. “Unfortunately, the daily deal market is incredibly saturated.”



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