August 31, 2011, 1:33 PM

Groupon loses a top communications executive

Bradford Williams leaves his job as the daily deal leader names a U.S. sales chief.

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Groupon has lost one of its main communications executives as the daily deal provider prepares to go public. Bradford Williams recently left his position as vice president, global communications, after less than three months on the job, says a Groupon spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Groupon has named Chris Muhr, its managing director, Groupon U.K. and Ireland, as its U.S. sales chief.  “We're a global company and we pride ourselves on learning from each other,” says the spokeswoman. “Chris has driven much of our success in the U.K. and is overseeing sales in the U.S. to introduce some of those best practices.”

Williams was one of several top executives the company hired as it prepared to go public. His departure from the daily day site was a mutual decision, the spokeswoman says. She declines to give more details and Williams could not be immediately reached.

The move came just before Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, in a widely leaked memo sent to staff last week, challenged the company’s critics despite the company being in a quiet period ahead of its initial public offering. “While we’ve bitten our tongues and allowed insane accusations to go unchallenged publicly, it’s important to me that you have the context necessary to brush this stuff off,” he wrote.

Since filing its IPO in June, Groupon has faced criticism for its unusual accounting practices, including one metric—adjusted consolidated segment operating income—that removed its subscriber-acquisition costs from its bottom-line results.

Mason’s memo fired back at that criticism by stating that adjusted consolidated segment operating income provides a good gauge of Groupon’s success. “The reason we didn’t realize everyone in the world would hate ACSOI is that we think it actually does a pretty good job at describing our marketing expenses in a steady state—we just didn’t realize there would be so many skeptics,” wrote Mason.

Groupon has also faced scrutiny as its growth has slowed. Groupon’s traffic has decreased nearly 50% since the second week of June, according to a recent report by Experian Hitwise. The report found an overall slowdown in consumer engagement with daily deal sites; traffic to the more than 50 daily deal sites tracked by Experian Hitwise is down 25% from its peak in the second week of June.

Meanwhile, two notable players in the space, Facebook and Yelp are in the midst of abandoning their daily deal offerings.

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