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Groupon's Andrew Mason: 'Just kidding - I was fired today'

These are stories Report on Business followed this week.

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Group dumps its chief
You can get mad when you get fired. Or, you can take it the way Andrew Mason did, with some humour and understanding.

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Groupon Inc. ousted its founder and chief executive officer late Friday as the young public company's stock plunged in the wake of disappointing fourth-quarter results a day earlier.

"After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family," Mr. Mason said in a note to staff as he left the online deal company.

"Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why ... you haven't been paying attention."

As CEO, Mr. Mason added, he's accountable for two quarters of missing expectations and a stock well down from its listing price a little more than a year earlier, The Globe and Mail's Marina Strauss reports.

"I'm okay with having failed at this part of the journey," he said, adding that employees deserve a "second chance" from the outside world.

"I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance."

Groupon posted an increase of 30 per cent in revenue, but a loss of $81.1-million (U.S.), or 12 cents a share. For first quarter, it forecast anywhere from a loss of $10-million to a profit of $10-million.

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Banks hike dividends
Canada's big banks are raking it in, and paying some of it out.

As The Globe and Mail's Grant Robertson, Tara Perkins and Tim Kiladze report, the banks are in the midst of reporting a blockbuster first quarter, pumped by investment banking and corporate lending.

That's easing fears among investors about slowing growth in loans to consumers. And for shareholders, there's a handful of dividend increases.

Throughout the week, Bank of Montreal unveiled a 2-cent dividend hike, Royal Bank of Canada a 3-cent boost, and Toronto-Dominion Bank an increase of 5 per cent.

Where next?
The economies of Canada and the United States limped through the end of last year. The question is where they go next.

Canada's economy expanded in the fourth quarter of 2012 at an annual pace of just 0.6 per cent, and contracted by 0.2 per cent in December alone, according to Statistics Canada this week.

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There were some decent signs in the report Friday, but all in all it was a weak showing, marking the slowest pace since the recession, according to The Globe and Mail's Richard Blackwell.

For all of 2012, economic growth slowed to 1.8 per cent, and chief economist Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns, for example, suggests this year could see growth in gross domestic product of no better than 1.5 per cent.

In the United States, the Commerce Department revised up its first estimate of GDP for the fourth quarter, to 0.1 per cent from the initial finding of a 0.1-per-cent contraction.

While weak, it did raise hopes for the current quarter.

Euro zone still in trouble
These are still not happy days for Europe and its monetary union.

While the 17-nation euro zone has made huge strides in the past several months, this week's election in Italy threatens to rekindle the debt crisis, leaving a political stalemate amid a voter backlash on austerity.

That backlash, The Globe and Mail's Eric Reguly writes, threatens to spread across the embattled region.

Several of the area's economies are in recession, and unemployment remains on the rise.

According to the Eurostat agency on Friday, unemployment in the wider, 27-member European Union stands at 10.8 per cent, while of the euro zone is closing in on 12 per cent.

More than 26 million people are out of work in the EU, some 19 million of them in the currency union.

Paying for music
The music recording industry has reached something of a milestone, reporting this week that it posted its first revenue increase since 1999.

It wasn't much - a gain of just 0.3 per cent to $16.5-billion (U.S.) in 2012 - but it was something after years of being hit by pirated music and the digital shift.

Digital revenues were up 9 per cent, The Globe and Mail's Simon Houpt reports.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said in a statement that it's now "on a path to recovery" and that "the digital music business is globalizing fast, as smartphones and new licensed services span new and emerging markets.

Big Deals
All the ingredients are in place for a big year in corporate deal-making, The Globe and Mail's Boyd Erman writes.

Financing is cheap, companies are loaded with cash, and confidence is climbing as markets push ever higher.

Just two months into 2013, we've already seen huge deals involving Dell Inc. and H.J. Heinz Co.

The week in Top Business

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The week in ROB Insight (for subscribers)

Required reading
International billionaires are forking over tens of millions for New York's latest in ultra high-end living as a head against uncertainty, Joanna Slater reports, and many are doing it sight unseen.

Launching a new restaurant is a risky undertaking, Josh Wingrove writes. Here's why that risk is moderated in Alberta.

Just how necessary is the traditional office? Omar El Akkad and Suzanne Bowness examine the issue after Yahoo's Marissa Mayer scrapped the idea of employees working remotely.

A British banking expert predicts several of Mark Carney's countrymen in the financial services industry will follow him to England as Canadian bankers find themselves in high demand. Grant Robertson reports.

Some purists decry a move by Schwartz's, a deli shrine to Montreal smoked-meat sandwiches, to make a supermarket version of its famed product, Bertrand Marotte writes.

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More


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