The Guy Running Groupon Now May Be Its Biggest Enemy

The Atlantic Wire

With Groupon CEO Andrew Mason gone, one of the two dudes left running the ship is Eric Lefkofsky, a man notorious for massive dot com failure, who, it turns out, also pushed the daily deals site in all the wrong directions. Details of the company's massive failings have trickled out since Mason sent his charming goodbye email a few weeks ago in which the notoriously childish leader took the blame for the company's misfortunes. But it doesn't sound like it was all his fault. "The truth is, Eric is a brilliant guy. But his greed overwhelms his intelligence," a former executive told The Verge's Ben Popper, who has a big piece on what went wrong. "It drives him to make short term decisions, always in the pursuit of bigger, more, now." That about sums up what happened to Groupon, which expanded too quickly without focus or leadership and got the company into a messy, IPO. 

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Specifically, Lefkofksy was one of a few people who pushed the company to (arguably prematurely) go public. Marc Andresseen, kind of the venture capital investors advised against it, by the way. Another person called him a "shark." He also advocated for buying up competitor companies overseas. Lefkofsky even admits he doesn't have the best reputation. "That’s so true,” Lefkofsky replied. "I’m not warm and fuzzy." So, yeah, that's the guy who is running the company now and it doesn't sound like he has changed much, per his first interview since taking the job, which is in Fast Company today. 

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First of all, Lefkofsky hasn't taken responsibility for what Popper paints as a company befallen mostly by his decisions, rather blaming Mason for the pitfalls of the company. "You could say, ‘Well everyone was here and everyone’s to blame including the senior manager, the board, whatever.’ But at the end of the day, the CEO is the CEO. And he makes those tough calls. If they go well, you’re a hero, and if they don’t go well, you’re accountable," he told Elisabeth Spiers. Even though, earlier he says "we did not do a very good job of controlling the process," suggesting that as a board member he had at least a little bit to do with its downfall since before going public. "He didn’t want any responsibility or accountability, at least not technically. But every single little decision had to be run by him," yet another source told Popper. 

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As for his business ideas, he has moved Groupon from the doomed consumer goods ponzi scheme to the more profitable sounding "technology company." "I think we are a tech company today," he told Spiers. "If you look at the investments we’re making in technology, the sheer headcount, the investments we’re making in technology both domestically and abroad, I think technology’s at the heart of what we do." Meanwhile, he was the one who got into an "arms race" for more sales people and the biggest daily deals salesforce on the planet. At least count, the daily deals site had around 5,000 sales people. That sounds more like a talking point than anything genuine. 

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But maybe Lefkofksy has changed. "I’m really 100% focused here," he tells Spiers. Then again, in his current interim CEO position, he likely wont get much of the blame for any continued downward spiral that happens. 

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