Groupon isn't to be written off completely as an investment. The fact that it has fallen 83% since its initial public offering in November 2011 doesn't change the fact that this company had 41 million active customers in 2012 and has worked with more than 500,000 merchants.
As RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney told Bloomberg Television Friday morning, "That's not just thin air. There is a business here that can be picked up."
It may be possible to make a lot of money investing in that business -- especially at an 83% discount. But I'm not too keen on the idea of a committee of rent-a-suits trying to implement someone else's vision.Once a company has been created, especially a public one, it's hard to kill. The corpse can stumble along for years while vulture investors, accountants, attorneys, insurers and other creatures of the corporate underworld --half-dead themselves -- pick at its carcass. I wouldn't want to get into fight with those nasty creatures over Groupon's last remaining drops of blood, however. I'd rather hang out in the land of the living with a brilliant young guy like Andrew Mason, who, from what I can tell, created his company out of little more than a sense of humor and a feeling that people are itching for an excuse to go out and have a good time with their friends.
It appears that idea wasn't enough to sustain a multi-billion dollar company. Thinking about it now, its hard to believe serious investors ever thought it was. I don't follow Groupon closely. I've never written about the company until now, and I've never even responded to one of its offers. But I've admired Mason, from the little bit I've read and seen about him. The guy appears to have more humanity in his left pinkie than you'd find in the average roomful of Harvard MBAs. People like him may not run corporate America, but its people like him who created it, people with active imaginations who weren't interested in playing it safe.
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