Groupon's new CEO speaks out: 'We are still paying the price for our past mistakes'

Rich Williams grouponGrouponGroupon CEO Rich Williams

Groupon’s new CEO Rich Williams is attempting to clear up some “myths” about the company.

Williams replaced former CEO and cofounder Eric Lefkofsky earlier this month. Williams came to Groupon in 2011 after running worldwide marketing and advertising for Amazon.

In a post on Groupon’s blog, Williams issues a missive that’s part mea culpa, part defence of his company’s business. He says that Groupon is misunderstood by analysts, by customers, and by the media.

“We are still paying the price for our past mistakes,” Williams acknowledges, adding: “We scaled too far, too fast and have had a rough ride. That’s not missed on us; these issues have too often diverted our attention from the kinds of things that a company at our stage should be figuring out.”

The company is trying to shed its image as a failed email-based daily-deals website, too. “Deals are core to who we are as a company, and we’re not running away from them — not by a long shot,” Williams says. “We also know that there’s more to our marketplace than deals, including an increasing number of market rate and low discount offers, and new ways to save time as well as money.”

Even before the company’s CEO shakeup, Groupon had already lost 80% of its value. Groupon’s daily-deals business was intended to be a way for small, local businesses to sell excess deals and inventory.

Even though Groupon provided strong marketing for businesses and often served as a means for new customers to discover them, many users didn’t convert into loyal, repeat shoppers, and lots of consumers burned out on the endless email offers in their inboxes.

In September, Groupon announced a round of layoffs affecting 1,100 people, mostly in customer service and in its international Deal Factory department. In addition, the company announced it would be closing its operations in the international markets Morocco, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Thailand, and Uruguay, as well as some Nordic countries.

“Without question, no one is handing us the keys to local with a big red bow tied around them,” Williams says in his post. “And while I’m shaking things up, I assure you that I’m not crazy.”

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