Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm with a strong interest in B2B and retail commerce, is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire office supplies retail chain Staples Inc.
Sycamore may announce as early as next week an agreement to purchase Staples in a deal that could exceed $6 billion, the Reuters news service reported on Wednesday. “It would represent a bet by Sycamore that Staples could more quickly shift its business model from serving consumers to catering to companies it were to go private,” Reuters reported.
A spokesman for Sycamore said the firm had no comment on the report. A Staples spokesman said Staples doesn’t comment on “marketplace rumors or speculation.” Sycamore emerged last month as the sole suitor for Staples after the office supplies company rejected a $5.8 billion offer from Cerberus Capital Management. The Sycamore deal comes almost exactly a year after a federal court ruling thwarted on anti-trust grounds a proposed merger between Staples and rival Office Depot Inc.
Staples in recent months has been emphasizing its stronger focus on business-to-business sales. CEO Shira Goodman has called its Staples Business Advantage unit, which caters mostly to mid-size business customers, the “growth engine of our company.”
In recent years, Staples has also been expanding its product lines beyond such basic office supplies as paper and printer ink and into such areas as breakroom supplies. It also recently began offering its voice-activated Easy Button internet re-ordering system to Staples Business Advantage contract customers.
The company changed its business segment reporting structure in the fourth quarter of 2016 to align with its 20/20 strategic plan, which aims to accelerate growth in North American Delivery and preserve profit in North American Retail. The North American Delivery segment includes StaplesAdvantage.com and Quill.com, which sell to businesses with 10 or more employees, Staples.com, and Staples.ca (its Canadian e-commerce site). The North American Retail segment includes the company’s retail stores in the U.S. and Canada.
Staples is No. 5 in the B2B E-Commerce 300; Office Depot is No. 9.
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