Groupon boss in spotlight as IPO halted

THE SPOTLIGHT has fallen on Groupon boss Andrew Mason as news of the deal website’s postponed float begins to sink in.

Its ambitions of achieving a $20bn valuation have been put on indefinite hold, with Mason’s souring relations with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) thought to be among the reasons.

Tensions have been simmering since the SEC took exception to an unusual accounting method in Groupon’s IPO filing, known as ACSOI, which excludes customer acquisition marketing costs from its expenses.

Groupon had rectified the issue and was due to begin its IPO roadshow next week. However, Mason last week risked the ire of the SEC again by responding to what he deemed unfair criticism of his company in a furious 2,500-word email.

Although ostensibly directed to staff, the email was inevitably leaked, appearing to breach SEC rules, given that Groupon is in a “quiet period”.

He said: “The degree to which we’re getting the s*** kicked out of us in the press had finally crossed the threshold from ‘annoying’ to ‘hilarious’.

“Feel a little bad about how downhearted the critics will be when we don’t turn out to be a Ponzi scheme – those are good impulses for journalists to have, and I hope our non-evil ways don’t destroy their spirits.”

It is unclear whether the email will have any long-term consequences, with some people close to the deal saying it could be resurrected within weeks.

Mason has long been seen as a black sheep in the Silicon Valley set. He eschewed the usual route to dotcom stardom, which includes a computer science degree from an Ivy League university, instead studying music at Northwestern University in Chicago. He does, however, possess the eccentric streak often associated with US tech bosses – his online biography falsely claimed he lives in a house with 20 cats.

Mason says he has never been more confident about the future of Groupon. The next few weeks could show whether investors still share his vision.