Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Wanted: Groupon COO. Must Like Cat-Wrangling, Lack of Spotlight and International Travel (Post-Samwer)

Of all the many job openings in tech, perhaps the most interesting to watch will be who Groupon selects as its next COO.

The search has been on for a while for the critical hire for the Chicago-based social buying company, well before the recent announcement that it was parting ways with President and COO Rob Solomon.

Among those approached, said sources close to Groupon: Former Doubleclick and Google exec David Rosenblatt.

He’s not taking the job for a variety of reasons, sources said, but
finding someone to step up for the job will be tough, since it is likely to be one that will require a wide range of talents.

That includes: epic cat-wrangling of thousands of employees in far-flung locations; deep marketing and advertising prowess; high-level technology, product, mobile and e-commerce chops; and international experience.

The last is perhaps the most critical of all, since global growth–especially in Europe and Asia–is increasingly becoming Groupon’s main revenue driver, and the COO will have to pull together a crack team across the world.

That will become even more important after Groupon’s top international managers–Germany’s entrepreneurial Samwer brothers–move out of active management by the end of this year.

While company sources said this has been long planned, the Samwers (pictured here) have been fully involved in Groupon’s fast trajectory in Europe and elsewhere, since it bought their Citydeal discounting clone last May.

Thus, sources said, Groupon is looking at a range of candidates with experience abroad, as well as talent in scaling businesses quickly and to huge size.

And that means looking to companies such as Google and Amazon for an exec, where there are quite a few choices.

While BoomTown could not confirm whether Groupon has spoken to any of them, possible COO types are obvious.

At Amazon, some qualified execs include: Sebastian J. Gunningham, SVP of Seller Services; Diego Piacentini, SVP of International Retail; H. Brian Valentine, SVP of Ecommerce Platform; and Jeffrey A. Wilke, SVP of North America Retail.

At Google, there are tons of good candidates that Facebook has not yet raided, including: Stephanie Tilenius, VP of eCommerce; Henrique de Castro, VP of Media and Global Platforms; Dennis Woodside, VP of Americas Operations; and Margo Georgiadis, VP of Global Sales Operations (plus a Chicagoan!).

Other names being raised include Hulu’s Jason Kilar (unlikely, but I’d like it), various Microsoft execs and a spate of others.

(I say, let’s bring in Zynga’s Owen Van Natta, who was once COO of Facebook, since he’s missing a big pile of Groupon stock to add to his enviable collection of hot Web 2.0 company shares.)

While there are probably qualified execs outside the tech industry at retail and media outfits, sources said it is likely Groupon will select within the digital ranks.

Lastly, and perhaps most important, the Groupon COO candidate is going to have to accept that the role will not be a CEO-in-waiting, either before or after its inevitable IPO in the next year.

While I have received several tips that Co-founder and CEO Andrew Mason (pictured here) might not stay its principal exec, extensive checking with sources inside and outside the company indicate that such a move is highly unlikely.

“Andrew is beloved to the board, by investors and, most of all, by employees,” said one source. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Indeed, Mason has a close working relationship with Co-founder Brad Keywell, as well as Groupon Co-founder and Chairman Eric Lefkofsky.

In fact, despite other business interests, Lefkofsky has been very involved in all key decisions with Mason.

That job, presumably, would fall to the new COO, which Groupon should be hiring sooner rather than later.

“Groupon needs a world-class COO, who can manage hyper-growth, but also who knows that a No. 2 stays in the background while doing it,” said another source. “That’s a tall order.”

As we await the decision of which uneasy head gets the COO crown at Groupon, here is the opening from the Swisher boys fave Animal Planet cable television show, “Must Love Cats,” to get you in the mood:

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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