Groupon: Not even the founder and CEO's job is safe

Andrew Mason speaks onstage during the 15th Annual Webby Awards at Hammerstein Ballroom on June 13, 2011.

Groupon’s board of directors fired the company’s CEO yesterday. Andrew Mason founded the daily deal site. This is, in many ways, a familiar story.

An ideas man builds up a business, takes it public, and then…

“Some kind of infrastructure is needed,” says James Abruzzo, co-founder of the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School. “And clearly that was the case here."

The same thing happened to Steve Jobs. Apple’s board forced him out in the mid-1980s. Something similar happened at Yahoo! Jerry Yang started that company, and when he was CEO, he opposed a takeover bid from Microsoft. That was it.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a dean at the Yale School of Management, remembers Polaroid founder Ed Land’s last days as CEO.

“Analysts were saying, ‘How about the bottom line?’  He said, ‘The bottom line is in heaven.’”

Founders who become executives have vision. That’s a given, but management consultant and venture capitalist Peter Cohan argues they can be blinded by that.

“They think, I created this thing. I’m the only one who can run it.” 

And the fact is, Cohan says, no one is irreplaceable.

About the author

David Gura is a senior reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.


I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...

Sustainability Coverage

  • The Kendeda Fund
  • Wealth & Poverty Coverage

  • The Ford Foundation