Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Andrew Mason will replace Zuck as the CEO that we love to hate

By Nathan 3/2/2011

There is always that guy that we love to hate on – you know, the one in each category who best mixes professional success with a high air of deuchbaggery. In the music industry it’s Kanye. And in his day, Terrell Owens held the position for the NFL. And though Silicon Valley’s resident dbag has for a long time been Mark Zuckerberg – like, for Mubarak-long – there are tidal shifts afoot. Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason will soon become the man of the tech sector that we love to hate.

The switch will be driven by two patterns: Zuck finally doing right, and Mason getting weird.

October 2010 was tough on Mark Zuckerberg. Privacy policy blowback was in full storm, The Social Network came to theaters uniquely focused on how much of a dick Mark was, and then got nominated for Best Picture! People even gave Mark shit for signing the Billionaire Pledge. And dang, when you promise to give away over 50% of your ability to make it rain and still get peed on by Gawker headlines you gotta know you're at a PR low.

That was the floor, no doubt. But with Zuck's willful and mad self-deprecating appearance on Saturday Night Live, he started his three-point turn. Because there is nothing that takes the sting out of making fun of a guy for being a goofy asshole, quite like the guy pleading guilty to being a goofy asshole. Zuck softened, and moved to the other side of the joke, joining the rest of us in making fun of him. In one night, the perception of Zuckerberg changed to: “hey, he ain't so bad.”

But Zuck’s reinvention wouldn't on its own equate to an abdication of his Valley Jerk throne. For royal protocol dictates that you can't step down unless you've got someone else's head to dump the crown on. Which is why it’s lucky that Andrew Mason has been recently grooming himself for the role (at a local salon with a coupon for 65% off!).

Mason has the recipe – the right combination of success and ass-tendencies that can turn any man into the object of our disaffection.

He is the CEO of the fastest growing company in the history of the world. And to get there he didn’t invent steel or a next-gen search algorithm, he took advantage of the universal truth that we are all cheap motherfuckers, and turned it into billions. Truism-leveraging business success, rather than that based on genius is a blend that certainly gets our bitter meters ticking.

Add in that Mason is weirdly jerkish. Mason is known for being a practical joker. A rep that is problematic (beyond the fact that most CEOs are admired more for their vision or genius than for being Michael Scott-ish) because Mason’s bits are always much less funny than they are insensitive.

They say that the Tibet-ripping Super Bowl commercials made sense to the people who understood Mason’s humor…dang. Not funny and semi-offensive? He sounds like a fucking King of Comedy.

But the whole Tibetan curry fiasco plays to me like the first arrest on the rapsheet of a kid who is undoubtedly going to become a career criminal. Some people just wear their roadmaps on their sleeves, and with Mason, you can smell it on him: his horizon is dotted with litters of asshole moves.

So if these patterns lengthen, one of Mason’s missteps will eventually be enough to oust the PR-abiding Zuck, and Mason will be crowned enemy #1.

As we know though, regime topplings are contagious these days – so after Zuck falls, Kanye just might be next.

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