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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 46 mins ago - Sports

IOC: Belarus sprinter who sought refuge in Tokyo "safe"

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus in 2019. Photo: Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought refuge in Tokyo, is in the care of Japanese authorities and the UN refugee agency is now involved in her case, an International Olympic Committee official told reporters Monday.

The latest: Officials in Poland and the Czech Republic have offered to help the 24-year-old sprinter, who refused national team orders to board a flight home after being taken to Tokyo's Haneda airport Sunday following her criticism of Belarusian coaches, per Reuters

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Team Italy crosses the finish line ahead of American Fred Kerley in the men's 100m final on day nine of the Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

🚨: IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

🏃🏾: Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs: Reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win" Olympic 100m sprint race.

🥇High jumpers persuade Olympic officials to let them share gold

🏌️‍♂️: Golfer Xander Schauffele wins gold for U.S. by one shot

🤸🏿‍♀️: Simone Biles won't compete in Olympic floor finals, individual vault or uneven bars

🏳️‍⚧️: Axios at the Olympics: Games grapple with trans athletesTrans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage