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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.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.