Groupon founder and CEO Mason attends the second day of the Allen and Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho
Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason attends the second day of the Allen and Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on July 7, 2011. REUTERS

The daily deal business continues to grow, according to research, but the industry leader -- Groupon -- continues with shakiness in regard to leadership, profitability, and a planned initial public offering (IPO).

The latest news is a new regulatory filing late Friday from the company that says the company's chief operating officer Margo Georgiadis is leaving the company to return to Google, her former employer. She was only on the job with Groupon, the Chicago-based Internet daily deal company, for five months.

She was helping Groupon navigate its planned IPO, expected any day now, but the company's public offering plans now face uncertainty. In a blog post about Georgiadis' departure and return to Google, Groupon co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason said Friday that her leaving the company won't have an impact on operations.

I have complete confidence in this team's ability to realize its mission, Georgiadis wrote in the blog post.

Mason said many departments, including sales and marketing, will now report to him.

Groupon Restates Revenue

In addition to noting the resignation of its COO in the regulatory filing late Friday, Groupon also restated revenue, showing a sharp drop from previously reported results. In the restatement, Groupon said revenue for 2010 totaled $312.9 million, down more than 55 percent from a previously reported figure of $713.4 million.

The company notes that revenue is growing this year, however. Groupon said revenue for the second quarter of 2011 was $392.6 million, up from $38.7 million for the same period in the previous year.

But the restatement of revenue at such a sharp drop and the departure of the company's COO after just five months on the job is certain to increase scrutiny from Wall Street if the company proceeds with its IPO.

Faster growth is predicted in the next several years for Groupon and other daily deal companies, but the hot Internet space that taps into consumer appetite for cheap food and drink, spa services, yoga lessons, sports tickets and other offerings has its limits, according to new research.

Media research firm BIA/Kelsey reports that revenue in the U.S. from online discounts will top $4.2 billion by 2015, up from previous forecasts for $3.9 billion -- resulting from red-hot daily deal demand as other companies including Google and newspaper publisher Gannett.

But growth beyond 2015 is expected to level off as the space matures, the firm's research showed.

One industry analyst agrees.

The deal space is on solid footing, Peter Krasilovsky told Chicago Business. There are more people continuing to sign up for deals even as existing customers level off their buying activity. We don't believe deals are going away. But we don't believe it's becoming a daily buying habit.

Some, howver, think Groupon may have peaked, over-promising to Wall Street in initial IPO filings what the company can deliver. Just months before most every Internet company went high-flying at IPO and Groupon heading down that same path. But now that sentiment has cooled amid global market turmoil and talk of another recession and Groupon's shakiness.

Tension Rising at Groupon

The turmoil apparently has Groupon reconsidering its IPO. The company recently canceled a roadshow scheduled in advance of a planned IPO, and perhaps re-evaluating plans to take the company's stock public -- though it continues on the path, with SEC filings.

CEO Andrew Mason founded the company in his 20s, and while he has done a remarkable job of launching the company (in 2008) and growing it into a red-hot online company that has sold millions of deals all over the country, he has also shown some an almost naive sensitivity whenever pushed in subject areas he didn't like, including Groupon's profitability.

Weeks ago, for instance, a report said that Mason, on edge, fired back at critics in an internal e-mail that was leaked to AllThingsD, a tech Web site owned by the Wall Street Journal. Not only did the leak apparently break SEC rules limiting what company executives can say before an IPO, it also revealed Mason to be more childlike than leader-like.

While we've bitten our tongues and allowed insane accusations (like in the article above) to go unchallenged publicly, it's important to me that you have the context necessary to brush this stuff off, Mason reportedly said in the memo, among other things, to thousands of company employees, according to AllThingsD.

Mason was speaking in response to a newspaper article that suggested the company is running out of cash.

One observer called Mason's company-wide e-mail move the botch-up of the century.

Another critic penned an article for TechCrunch titled, Why Groupon is Poised for Collapse. The writer, entrepreneur Rocky Agrawal, argues to small business owners that they are taking a risk signing up to do deals with Groupon because if the company collapses -- and he makes a good case that it might -- a lot of small merchants could be left holding the bag.

Groupon's First Filing Said the Company is Profitable (But's It's Not)

Mason has been trying lead the company into a monster IPO valuing the company at as much as $25 billion. But initial paperwork filed by Groupon stated that the company is profitable. However, that's because Groupon, under Mason's order, originally used an accounting method frowned upon on Wall Street.

The company had marketing costs that weren't being booked according to the manner Wall Street wanted: When Mason later fixed the problem and Groupon resubmitted its numbers, it appeared the company was not profitable after all.

Last year, Google offered Groupon $6 billion in a buyout bid, but Mason turned that down. He's been intent on getting the company through IPO before cash-on-hand runs out, as the company has apparently been counting on the IPO to bolster the bank account. Tensions have apparently been rising the company's Chicago offices -- where everything was once smelling like roses fertilized with dollars.

Nobody ever said getting a billion dollars on Wall Street is easy, though lately it has looked that way for successful IPOs including Pandora, LinkedIn, and Zynga. Groupon, however, is finding the waters more turbulent with each passing week.

Groupon could still get its IPO launched, but it isn't likely to find the same success that would have come just a month or two ago. The company said it was profitable and it wasn't. The CEO got snippy, for some reason. Now, the company has restated revenue and announced the departure of its COO after just five months on the job.

So while the daily deal space may be growing, Groupon may not be one that investors want to snap up -- if they ever get the chance.