What's behind Groupon COO Rob Solomon's abrupt exit?

Former Yahoo exec leaves red-hot social buying website as IPO talk heats up

The No. 2 executive at "deal of the day" website Groupon is leaving the company after only year on the job. Rob Solomon, Groupon's president and chief operating officer, is moving back to California from Chicago, company founder and chief executive Andrew Mason informed Groupon staffers in a memo Tuesday. (Also see: Groupon IPO talk heats up) For now, of course, we can only speculate as to why -- and speculate we shall! All Things Digital's Kara Swisher writes: According to sources, the leaving was a combination of issues, including the Solomon family’s desire to move back to Silicon Valley from Chicago. But sources said the bigger reason was a growing feeling by Mason and its board that the former Yahoo exec was not the right person to lead the social buying company into its next phase of growth. Of course, in the memo to staffers, Mason hints at no dissatisfaction with Solomon, praising the "seasoned Internet executive" for his role in the company's success. "During Rob’s tenure, Groupon has grown from 1 country to 44, 200 employees to 6,500, and 3 million subscribers to over 70 million–in no small part due to his contribution," Mason wrote. "I’ve learned an enormous amount from Rob; Groupon wouldn’t be the same without him." At least one tech veteran would agree with that last comment, though maybe not in quite the way Mason meant it in the memo. In a tweet to Swisher, angel investor and Hunch CEO Chris Dixon said, "It's not that hard to figure out. the guy was bad at his job and fired. before that he did crappy seo." Ouch. (I was going to link to Dixon's tweet, but interestingly, he appears to have deleted it late Wednesday morning.) Solomon was vice president and general manager of Yahoo Shopping until 2006, when he left to become president and CEO of travel search engine SideStep, which last week merged with KAYAK. Groupon is reported to be in talks with banks about an IPO that could value it at up to $25 billion. But it's hard to pull off a viable public offering without a COO or president in place. Something tells me the company won't have trouble finding willing candidates. Able could be a different story.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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