Staples’ Third Bid to Buy Office Depot is Both Preposterous & Illegal

January 11, 2021 Press Release

Washington, D.C. – The American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement in response to news that Staples, owned by private equity giant Sycamore Partners, has made a bid to acquire Office Depot for $2.1 billion.

“Staples’ proposed takeover of Office Depot is both preposterous and illegal, which is obvious because the Federal Trade Commission has already blocked this deal twice,” said Moe Tkacik, Senior Fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project. “In fact, the only thing that’s changed since this deal was last reviewed in 2016 is the amount of leverage financial engineers have heaped upon the companies’ balance sheets in pursuit of quick profits.”

“Indeed, Staples is a stunning example of private equity’s bad habits,” added Tkacik. “After taking control of Staples, the ever-shameless Sycamore Partners grew Staples’ debt load from just over $1 billion to more than $5.325 billion, not including the extra rent liabilities Staples took on when the private equity firm sold off nearly $400 million of the company’s real estate and agreed to lease it back, all so it could pay itself nearly $1.5 billion in dividends in less than three years.”

“Assuming Sycamore finances a similar portion of Office Depot’s purchase price using debt, a combined Staples-Office Depot could have close to $10 billion in high-yield debt and other liabilities, nearly guaranteeing layoffs and price hikes. Those are just some of the reasons antitrust enforcers should swiftly reject this bid,” said Tkacik.

“Moving forward antitrust enforcers should begin to more closely scrutinize acquisitions made by companies owned or controlled by private equity firms. Congress should also act and move to pass the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, which would make many of private equity’s most dangerous maneuvers illegal,” added Tkacik.


The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.