Photo: Michael Seto / BI
A year or two ago, many critics of Groupon argued that the company could never make money and would go bankrupt.Groupon CEO Andrew Mason once asked his CFO what it would take for that actually happen, he told Business Insider’s Ignition 2012 conference today.
The moment came after a rash of media coverage in 2011 and early 2012 — some of it from BI — that suggested the company was either a Ponzi scheme or might never make money.
So Mason said he decided to ask his finance chief if there was any truth to the reports.
“I went to our CFO and said, OK let’s give these guys the benefit of the doubt. What would have to happen, for that to happen?”
The answer was an apocalyptic worst-case scenario that was extremely unlikely, Mason said. “The scenario is so absurd and out there” that it would require “severe negative growth for a sustained period” to actually come true.
Mason used the anecdote to make a wider point about how he and his company handle the huge amount of negative publicity they’ve received since filing IPO papers with the SEC in 2011:
“We’ve built up a resiliency to the external noise,” he said. Although some staffers read the news coverage, “The people who join Groupon to be part of the latest fad don’t survive. … What you’re left with is the true believers.”
The comment came in a one-on-one chat with BI CEO Henry Blodget, who opened the talk by asking about rumours that Mason was about to be fired by his board. Mason said that with the stock down 80%, “it would be weird if the board wasn’t discussing if I was the right guy for the job,” but that he was confident that wasn’t going to happen.
Then came the big zinger: “I don’t read the stuff that you guys write — it’s a complete distraction!”
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