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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Walmart yesterday announced plans to shutter its Jet.com e-commerce brand, less than four years after buying it for $3.3 billion.

Under the hood: Appearances can be deceiving. Not only was this deal not a failure for Walmart, but it arguably was the retail industry's most successful acquisition ever of a tech company.

History: Jet.com was still pretty embryonic when Walmart agreed to buy it in August 2016.

  • The company had only been founded two years earlier, and publicly launched just one year earlier, with an ambitious goal to take on Amazon.
  • It was something of a revenge play by founder and CEO Marc Lore, after Amazon used anti-competitive practices to force an acquisition of Lore's prior startup (Lore, for the record, publicly disputes the spite narrative ⁠— but Tom Brady is more believable when he wishes the Patriots the best of luck).
  • As I wrote at the time for Fortune: "Jet will use a membership-based, real-time trading platform to provide deeper discounts than are currently available online, and steer users toward a 'smart cart' experience rather than impulse buys."

Fast forward: Jet's underlying thesis never really panned out, and after being acquired it transitioned more into focusing on urban millennials that Walmart otherwise struggled to reach.

  • But the deal wasn't really about Jet.com as a product or a technology. It was about Lore, who was put in charge of Walmart's entire e-commerce business, and his team.
  • In short, this was a gussied-up acqui-hire.
  • Walmart's e-commerce sales skyrocketed since the deal, including a 37% bump in 2019. And that's all before the pandemic forced changes to consumer behavior, which began to be reflected in a 74% surge for Walmart e-commerce in Q1 2020.

The bottom line: Lore hasn't gotten close to defeating Amazon, but he's helped transform Walmart into one of its largest and most viable rivals. That's a pretty strong return on investment, even if Jet.com is grounded.

Go deeper: Walmart takes aim at Amazon with new Jet.com grocery

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Aug 27, 2020 - Economy & Business

Microsoft working with Walmart on TikTok deal

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Microsoft is working with Walmart on its efforts to buy TikTok's U.S. business from China's ByteDance, Axios has learned from multiple sources close to the process.

The state of play: The idea would be to help turn TikTok U.S. into more of an e-commerce app for creators and users, much like what TikTok parent company ByteDance does with a similar app in China.

Updated 2 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 28 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."