Should One Key Groupon Executive Be Worth an 8% Drop?

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Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) is a company that can use all the help it can get. Shares were hammered on Tuesday after the departure of a key officer of the company.

On Monday evening came an SEC Filing in which Groupon simply said, “Jeffrey Holden, Senior Vice President-Product Management of Groupon, Inc., will be leaving the company effective March 18, 2014.”

Holden had held the position since April of 2011. He had been in charge of consumer websites at Amazon.com prior to joining Groupon, and he came to the company when Groupon acquired a startup named Pelago.

Where things get interesting is that Groupon continues to migrate away from just being a daily deals website, focused on consistent and longer-term deals as well as working on new merchant relationships.

The big question is whether a brain drain is happening here. Losing the head of product management in some ways is as disruptive as losing a chief executive officer, particularly if a replacement is hard to find that is willing to carry the same views and direction.

Sterne Agee’s analyst team said:

Although we think GRPN has enough management depth, we consider this as a mild negative given Jeff’s key role at Groupon. Our understanding is Jeff will NOT be joining a competitor. The timing of the announcement adds to our existing concerns regarding 4Q trends. Recall, in early January, when the company closed the acquisition of Ticket-Monster, management added language on its website that caused us to be concerned.

Investors are shooting first and asking questions later. An 8% drop to $10.19 was seen on Tuesday morning, and the 52-week range is $4.24 to $12.76.

This seems a bit extreme, particularly if the company is still trying to transition into new ongoing services and relationships. Again, traders and investors often shoot first and ask questions later.

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