Groupon Chairman Lefkofsky Shifts Focus to Investment Firm

Groupon Inc. Chairman Eric Lefkofsky plans to devote more attention to Lightbank LLC, the venture capital firm he founded, while management at the online coupon company handles more of the tasks he initially oversaw there.

Lefkofsky, who is also Groupon’s co-founder and first investor, assisted Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason with early support in the areas of finance, operations and legal, he said in a blog post today.

“When Groupon was a ‘young’ company, Andrew and I wore a lot of different hats,” Lefkofsky wrote. “Every time we hired someone new, we gave up a hat. Given the breadth of the team today, everyone’s hat is planted firmly on the right head, which has allowed me to focus on doing what I do best.”

Lefkofsky is pulling back at a time when Groupon is under pressure from investors. The stock lost 48 percent of its value in its first six months on the public market, a period that ended on May 3. Since 2001, only four companies have performed worse among newly public U.S. Internet stocks.

Lefkofsky is still executive chairman of Groupon’s board “and his role has not changed,” Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for the board, said in an e-mailed statement.

While the investor helped Groupon during its early years of growth, his outspoken manner drew regulatory scrutiny. Lefkofsky said in June 2011, in remarks to Bloomberg News, that he expected the company to become “wildly profitable.”

Startup Investing

The remarks caught the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, whose rules limit what companies can say about prospects between the time they file for an IPO and when shares start trading. Groupon later updated its IPO filing to tell investors to disregard the comments.

Chicago-based Lightbank has invested in more than 40 technology startups, including e-commerce website Beachmint Inc. and mobile-commerce app Zaarly Inc.

Lefkofsky wrote in the blog post that Lightbank stands apart from other venture capital firms because it gets more involved in the early stages of growth.

“We roll up our sleeves and actually do the work to build the business, just the like entrepreneurs we invest in and partner with,” Lefkofsky wrote.

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