This Is Not the Worst CEO of 2012


Herb Greenberg has spoken.

CNBC's occasionally cynical analyst put out his annual list of the worst CEOs. It's a rundown worth heeding. Three of his five finalists last year got canned in 2012. Four of the five nominees came from companies that have posted share price declines year-to-date.

He had plenty of worthy candidates to go after this year, but he picked Groupon CEO Andrew Mason for the dubious distinction of being the worst CEO of 2012.

I disagree.

It's easy to hate on Groupon. The stock is trading 75% below last year's IPO, making it essentially as big a loser as Zynga . The social gaming company's CEO also made the cut as a finalist on Greenberg's list, and he's really the better choice here. How many executives did Zynga's Mark Pincus rub the wrong way in driving them to resign from the company?

J.C. Penney's Ron Johnson was another finalist on Greenberg's list that deserves the distinction more. The department store chain has posted three brutal quarters of sharp double-digit declines in comps since his once-ballyhooed makeover kicked in back in February.

Pincus is worthy because he can't hold on to key executives. Johnson deserves the dissed honors because he has fallen well behind his retailing peers. That can't be said for Groupon. Its nearest rival announced layoffs last month, and even smaller companies have bowed out of daily deals altogether.

Groupon's growth has been challenged lately, but the company is making the most of its out-of-favor niche. Groupon has been milking its 250,000 merchant relationships to push credit card processing and other enterprise solutions.

Looking out to 2013, analysts see earnings and revenue climbing 41% and 18%, respectively. That doesn't seem like the kind of performance that will send shareholders scrambling for the battering ram.

Yes, the IPO was priced too high, but take the underwriters to task for that. Groupon is mortal. It's had its bumps through 2012. However, it just doesn't seem right to blast Mason when there are so many bumbling CEOs worth shaming.

What a deal
Groupon's story is one of the American Dream. The company went from 400 subscribers in 2008 to over 150 million today. While this story is definitely one of triumph on a business level, its success most certainly hasn't been shared by investors. Company shares have fallen over 80% over the past year and left investors panicked. Will this company live out its American Dream, or leave shareholders empty-handed? In order to answer that question, our analyst has compiled a premium research report with in-depth analysis on whether you should buy or sell Groupon right now, and why. Simply click here now to get started.

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