Staples Inc. CEO Alexander Douglas is stepping down by mutual agreement with the company, according to a press release.
Executive Chairman John Lederer, who is also a senior adviser with Staples' private equity owner Sycamore Partners, will take over as interim CEO following Douglas's departure. The leadership changes are effective June 18.
Staples Inc., which houses the business-to-business distribution operations previously a part of the Staples retail chain, has begun a search for a permanent replacement for Douglas, who joined in 2018. The CEO transition comes as USR Parent Inc., which runs the Staples stores and is also owned by Sycamore, is attempting to acquire the retail arm of ODP Corporation, the parent company of Office Depot.
As one of the Staples entities under Sycamore attempts to acquire Office Depot, the other is losing its chief executive.
Staples the retailer has been undaunted in its pursuit of its rival. After ODP turned down the company's initial offer to buy the company, citing financial and regulatory shortfalls in Staples' offer, ODP announced it was splitting itself into two. The company plans to separate its retail arm, which includes the Office Depot and Office Max banners, from its business-to-business contracting and supplying unit.
Staples hasn't given up. Earlier in June, the company announced a $1 billion bid for ODP's retail business. In the original offer, Sycamore and Staples indicated they would sell off ODP’s B2B unit but had not identified a buyer. While the targeted company said it would review the new offer, Staples reiterated its willingness to go around the board with an offer direct to shareholders — a hostile takeover in Wall Street parlance.
A merger with ODP would leave just one office supplies box chain left in the U.S., following Office Depot's acquisition of Office Max. Prior to its takeover by Sycamore, Staples attempted another merger with Office Depot, only for it to fall apart under the Federal Trade Commission's opposition to the deal. The FTC's focus was the combination of each company's business contracting units.
On paper, Staples Inc. and USR Parent are separate companies. It’s unclear how the two Staples companies are related at a financial, organizational and operational level, though Staples Inc. has no apparent involvement in the Office Depot acquisition.
Douglas joined Staples, Inc. after 30 years with Coca-Cola. Since becoming private under Sycamore, Staples hasn't reported its financials, making it difficult to know just how the company performed during the chief's tenure.
Both ODP and Staples operate in a segment that is navigating a tough environment for physical stores in recent years as sales of office supplies proliferate online. Earlier this year, the company announced the "Staples Connect" rebranding, aimed at making itself a hub for products tailored to remote working and learning. The retailer also launched same-day delivery via Instacart last year as the pandemic reshaped consumer expectations.
As ODP and its B2B business have, Staples Inc. has invested in its services unit under Sycamore. In 2018, for example, it bought HiTouch, which provides office supplies, workplace design and IT services.
Lederer said in a statement that he looked forward to "working closely with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Hall and the rest of the senior management team to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Company and execute on our growth strategy as the economic recovery in North America gains momentum."
Correction: This article was updated to reflect which of the multiple Staples entities under Sycamore Douglas served with. He has worked as chief executive for Staples Inc, the distribution business.