Staples has announced that it has agreed to acquire its rival, Office Depot, in exchange for $6.3 billion in cash and stock. However, the deal has yet to be approved by the FTC. A similar merger was proposed in 1997, but was shut down by the FTC years ago. There, the FTC moved to block the merger, and successfully obtained a preliminary injunction against the companies in a federal district court in Washington D.C. on the grounds that “the effect of the proposed merger between Staples and Office Depot ‘may be substantially to lessen competition.’” Even still, the court noted “it is with regret that the Court reaches the decision that it must in this case.” It would not be for another approximately 16 years that the FTC would have to stand in judgment of another proposed merger between two office superstore chains.
In 2013, the FTC decided not to block a merger between Office Depot and OfficeMax. In its decision, the FTC noted that, “Our decision highlights that yesterday’s market dynamics may be very different from the market dynamics of today,” and, “In this case, significant developments in the market for consumable office supplies have led us to approve a merger when we had blocked a similar merger sixteen years ago. In so finding, we emphasize that our decision, including our view of the competitive interaction between brick-and-mortar retailers and Internet sellers, is limited to the facts before us in this particular matter.” The FTC’s own language limits their findings to just the Office Depot and OfficeMax merger, and as a result that decision cannot be taken to mean that the merger between Staples and Office Depot will be automatically approved by the FTC.