One Man's Opinion Why Groupon's Andrew Mason Is as Bad a CEO as Mark Hurd

There’s not just one reason, but six billion reasons why Groupon’s Andrew Mason is as bad as the scandalous Mark Hurd, by at least one academic’s assessment.

That’s gotta hurd, I mean hurt.

Sydney Finkelstein, a business professor at Dartmouth, appeared on NPR last week to discuss “The Worst CEOs of 2010,” and Mason rose to the top, along with BP’s Tony Hayward and HP’s Mark Hurd, both of whom lost their jobs.

Apparently, now that we are post-Gooponocalypse, or whatever you want to call it, the 30-year-old’s management skills are trading at a discount (and as the CEO of a company that negotiates steep price reductions on behalf of its customers, that seems somehow fitting).

It’s up to you how much weight you want to put in this comparison, which puts the leader of one of the hottest Internet start-ups on par with Hayward, who was heading up BP at the time of the Gulf oil spill, and Hurd, who resigned after having a relationship with a marketing consultant and is subject to a SEC investigation.

But hey, maybe it’s worth repeating since Finkelstein’s specializes in determining “why smart executives fail” and identifying “early warning signs for corporate disasters.” At least, that’s what his resume says.

So, in Finkelstein’s expert opinion, he sees a big fall on the horizon for Mason, who turned down $6 billion from Google.

What’s wrong with that?

Finkelstein: “Well, six billion reasons why that might not be the best thing to do.”

In his mind, Mason is more similar to Yahoo’s CEO Jerry Yang, who foolishly turned down Microsoft’s $30 billion buy-out offer, and less like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who smartly declined previous big-ticket bids.

“I may very well be wrong, but I’ll tell you, based on my own research and working with many organizations, I think Andrew Mason looked at Mark Zuckerberg as his role model–the founder and CEO of Facebook. And Zuckerberg had many opportunities to sell his business, and he didn’t. And you can see how incredibly valuable that company’s become….You don’t know what’s going to happen next. In the case of Groupon, there are plenty of other companies that are doing pretty much the same thing. Groupon is easily in the lead now, but there are companies like LivingSocial that have recently gotten a huge investment by Now, that’s a pretty good backer, and that’ll be a serious competitor, as well.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald