Groupon Hires Former Hill & Knowlton CEO Paul Taaffe

Exec Brought in to Run Communications Department

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Groupon has hired PR executive Paul Taaffe to run communications for the daily-deal site.

Paul Taaffe
Paul Taaffe

He succeeds Brad Williams, the veteran of eBay and Yahoo who came to Groupon last year and stayed just a few months before leaving. Mr. Taaffe, 50, was previously chairman and CEO of WPP-owned PR shop Hill & Knowlton, before he resigned from the post in January 2011. The native Australian was named president of the firm in 1998, then promoted to chairman-CEO in 2002.

After two decades at a PR agency, Mr. Taaffe has begun working with Andrew Mason, the 31-year-old Groupon CEO and co-founder known for his office pranks and an edgy sense of humor that has become part of the company's brand. Groupon was faulted a year ago after airing Super Bowl advertisements that critics said made light of repression in Tibet. Mr. Mason later apologized for the ads and had them pulled.

The hire comes as Groupon has endured marketing gaffes in the past 12 months, from controversial Super Bowl commercials in 2011 to violations of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission's "quiet period" rules for public offerings.

The company, which held an IPO in November, is still learning how to communicate with the public, Mr. Taaffe told Bloomberg News in a telephone interview today. "It's a disruptive company and it's one of the fastest-growing companies on the planet," he said. "I saw the opportunity to help manage that growth and tell Groupon's story better."

Prior to the company's public debut, Co-founder and Chairman Eric Lefkofsky told Bloomberg News he expected the company to become "wildly profitable." That caught the attention of the SEC, which limits what companies can say about future prospects to potential investors between the time they file for an IPO and when shares start trading. Groupon later updated its filing to tell investors to disregard the comments.

Mr. Taaffe will work with Mr. Mason as the young CEO gains experience running a publicly traded company. "I think he is incredibly talented and despite his still-young age, I think he has matured quickly," Mr. Taaffe said.

--Bloomberg News
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