Groupon Inc., owner of the largest website for daily deals, is ramping up hiring of managers who can help spearhead expansion abroad, according to two people involved in the planning.
The company retained a search firm and has approached candidates including Jason Kilar, chief executive officer of Hulu LLC, to gauge interest in becoming head of worldwide operations, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the search is private. It couldn’t be determined whether Kilar plans to take the job. The position may be filled within the next 30 days, the person said.
Global expansion is crucial as Groupon CEO Andrew Mason weighs a potential initial public offering this year. The company offers its deals in 35 countries, and gets much of its sales from outside the U.S. Management’s ability to promote growth abroad could help set it apart from rivals like LivingSocial, which in December said it received a $183 million investment led by Amazon.com Inc.
Mason, 30, founded Chicago-based Groupon in 2008 after abandoning a career in music and then dropping out of a graduate program in public policy to work on a website. The company brought in Rob Solomon as president and chief operating officer in March, adding an Internet veteran with experience as an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and manager at Yahoo! Inc.
Julie Mossler, a spokeswoman for Groupon, didn’t respond yesterday to a message seeking comment. Kilar and a representative of Hulu didn’t respond to requests for comment.
‘Two in the Box’
In searching for an experienced technology executive to fill the international role, Groupon’s board may be aiming to groom a manager who could eventually succeed Solomon or Mason.
Efforts to use an outsider to take over from a founder -- especially one like Mason, who has helped forge an office culture around his offbeat sense of humor and penchant for pranks -- frequently fail, said Stephen Miles, vice chairman at executive consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles.
“Often founders are used to calling the shots in a dictatorial manner,” Miles said. “When you have two in the box, it creates an additional level of decision-making complexity that can derail a company.”
Last week, Groupon added executive muscle to its board of directors, appointing Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz, the company said in statement.
Groupon sends daily deals to 50 million subscribers. A year ago, it had 2 million users and its only market was the U.S. It offers discounts of as much as 90 percent at businesses such as restaurants, nail salons and clothing stores. It then keeps a portion of the revenue.
Last month, Groupon completed a $950 million round of financing, a deal that valued the company at $4.75 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said. Groupon said it would use the funds to expand the business and buy back equity from existing shareholders.
Mason and other executives at the company have been in talks with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley about pursuing an IPO valuing the company at $15 billion, a person said in January. The chances of a Groupon IPO this year are “less than 100 percent,” Mason said in an interview at the Digital-Life-Design conference in Munich late last month.
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