Groupon Having an IPO Meltdown

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

By Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace.com

NEW YORK ( InvestorPlace) -- Even when the equities markets are in the bull mode, it's not easy to pull off an IPO. A CEO needs to spend lots of time wooing investors as well as making sure the business is running smoothly. It's a tough balancing act.

That's why it is important to have experienced leadership. This certainly has been critical for recent IPOs like Zillow ( Z) and LinkedIn ( LNKD).
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  • But when it comes to the Groupon deal, things have been much different. The company is a leader in the daily deals space and its IPO is much anticipated. But the company's 29-year-old CEO, Andrew Mason, can't seem to do anything right.

    The latest bad stuff came in a Friday filing. First of all, Groupon's No. 2 senior executive, Margo Georgiadis, has left the company to go back to Google ( GOOG). She held the post for a mere five months. Interestingly enough, Mason blogged about the departure, "It would have been great if I could say that we batted 1,000%, but that's rarely the case." (In fact, lately it seems he has only been able to strike out.)

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  • Next, Groupon had to restate its financials. This is something investors never like to see, especially when it involves major changes.

    To this end, the Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled that Groupon can only recognize its commissions as revenue, not the gross value of a voucher. The result: For 2011, Groupon posted $688.1 million in revenue, not $1.52 billion.

    But wait, there's more: Groupon's filing also addresses Mason's controversial memo, in which he complained about "insane" media criticism and said the company is stronger than ever. Such missives can be violations of the "quiet period," which forbid hyped statements from companies.
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  • What to do? In this case, the SEC has required Groupon to disclose the memo. And there even is a disclaimer that tells investors to not rely on it! No doubt, the securities laws can be paradoxical.

    Perhaps this filing will mark the end of the drama -- and maybe Mason will benefit from some hard lessons. Still, this might not be enough for investors to get comfortable with the deal. For the most part, Groupon has become the laughingstock of the IPO world.

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  • This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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