In his first interview after assuming the role of co-CEO with Ted Leonsis, Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky is tough on outgoing CEO Andrew Mason. "In Andrew’s letter to the employees when he notified people that he was leaving, he accepted responsibility,” Lefkofsky tells Elizabeth Spiers for Fast 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 adds that "in the first 12 to 15 months of us being public we did not do a very good job of controlling the process," but insists that he had been "pulling back from any active involvement in Groupon" for the last year, even as he also served as chairman of the company's board.
"Lefkofsky may have stepped back, but presumably not so much as to ignore [Groupon] altogether, which would have potentially been a breach of his fiduciary duties as a board member," writes Spiers.
As Chairman, Lefkofsky "didn’t want any responsibility or accountability"
Earlier today, The Verge's Ben Popper describes how Lefkofsky and other key figures in Groupon pushed the company toward a fast IPO, how his statements pre-IPO resulted in scrutiny and censorship from the SEC, and how Lefkofsky sought to exert control over the company without accepting responsibility for it. “He didn’t want any responsibility or accountability, at least not technically," says a source who worked at Groupon's Chicago office. "But every single little decision had to be run by him… He’s completely neurotic about every detail of the business."
"At the end of the day, the CEO is the CEO."
In the interview, Lefkofsky also argues that Groupon's sophisticated merchant tools make it a technology company, not merely an online sales company. “I just think it’s a matter of when do people outside the company start to realize that we’re a technology company. That I can’t control,” he admits. “It’s a matter of perception.”