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Office Depot Acquires Major US Independent Dealer

Thursday, October 12, 2017  
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Office Depot has displayed its mid-market ambitions by snapping up one of the largest independent office supplies dealers in the US.


Ted Nark, the co-founder of $150 million dealer Complete Office Solutions, confirmed that the business had been sold to Office Depot as of Monday, October 2.


Nark – a former CEO of Corporate Express Australia (CEA) – co-founded Complete with Rick Israel (also ex-CEA) in 2003 and the company has grown from sales of $1 million in its first year to about $150 million through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. Complete, which employs more than 300 people, operates out of three divisions in Washington state, Wisconsin and California, all of which have been acquired by Office Depot.


Providing some background to the deal, Nark said that he and his partners hadn’t been marketing the business, but that they received an offer from Office Depot they felt was in the best interests of employees and customers. He declined to comment on whether an approach had been made by Staples – which has been actively looking to acquire more independent dealers – or if there had been any acquisition offers from other independent dealers.


Interestingly, Nark confirmed that Office Depot would run Complete independently, keeping its name, distribution facilities – which are being leased by Depot – and staff. Apparently, there are no plans at this stage to integrate the dealership into Depot’s Business Solutions Division, but instead it will operate as a standalone unit focused on mid-market customers.


While Nark himself will no longer be involved in the business, Israel and Dave Patterson (Washington state), Ron Beam (Wisconsin) and Ted Walter (California) are all staying on, and no change is being made to things such as the business model and sales reps’ commission plans.

We often hear the term ‘business as usual’ thrown around somewhat haphazardly when acquisitions of this sort are made, but this may be one of those occasions when it actually holds true.


There will be some shockwaves felt in the independent dealer channel, though: Complete was a first-call Essendant dealer and a member of the Pinnacle dealer group, so the impact of its acquisition by Office Depot will undoubtedly be felt at those two organizations.


Despite the recent publicity about Staples’ efforts to grow its mid-market business through acquisitions, it’s interesting that Complete has been snapped up by Office Depot; it’s certainly another sign of Office Depot’s apparent rejuvenation under new CEO Gerry Smith following the $1 billion acquisition of tech services firm CompuCom that was announced last week.


The fact that Depot is planning on running Complete separately is also noteworthy; there have been many tales of botched acquisitions by the big-boxes over the years that rip the soul out of local dealers. This way, Depot is hoping to get the best of both worlds, combining its purchasing power with the entrepreneurial spirit and local touch-points of an independent dealer. - (OPI)


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