Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) has not been performing well since its IPO last year. The company has seen its revenue fall and its business model questioned by just about everyone. Reuters’ Robert Cyran points out an often neglected attribute of the company that’s causing problems in a column published today.
When Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) went public, its founders kept a class of shares that gave them a controlling interest. Three of the executives in the company control about 35% of the firm’s decision making power, while holding only 1% of its economic value. It’s a pattern not uncommon in technology companies.
According to Cyran,”In theory, the super-voting stock pervasive among technology and media companies is supposed to enable visionaries to pursue their long-term visions without the short-term pressures often imposed by other investors”. At Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) the infighting between the co-founder s of the company has created turmoil.
The Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) business model is crumbling, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has all but abandoned its competing LivingSocials.com platform as a future revenue generator, Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) stock has fallen by 80% since its IPO.
Shares with huge amount of control, given to company founders or visionaries, are not a good or a bad thing in themselves, but shareholders should be wary. If an investor buys into a company with that structure, they are beholden to the decisions of the founders. Investing in such a company implies not only trust in its ability to grow, but personal trust in those controlling it. It is almost impossible in these situations to remove those in charge.
That was demonstrated today as Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) CEO Andrew Mason managed to keep his job, despite dissent. Then firm’s share price has fallen by almost 10% today in response to the news. Investors in the company cannot wrest control from the founders, and it is clear the market does not trust those founders any longer.
Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) may be a bad example of the way in which dual-class shares can damage a company. The firm’s business is slackening off across the board. The firm’s leaders have failed to respond, but it is difficult to tell if it could thrive at all, without spreading into a different business entirely.
Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN), and its executive squabbles, will continue to appear in news feeds for some time, at least until the firm dissolves under weight of market pressure. The company has a failed business model, accounting troubles, and founders unmovable and unsure where to go. Upsides are hard to detect.