PetSmart has agreed to make the biggest e-commerce acquisition in history, putting a deal in place to snatch up fast-growing pet food and product site Chewy.com for $3.35 billion, according to multiple sources familiar with the deal.
The deal is a huge one by any standard — bigger than Walmart’s $3.3 billion deal for Jet.com last year— and especially for a retail company like PetSmart, which was itself valued at only $8.7 billion when private equity investors took it over in 2015.
But Chewy.com has been one of the fastest-growing e-commerce sites on the planet, registering nearly $900 million in revenue last year, in what was only its fifth year in operation. The company had been a potential IPO candidate for this year or next, but was taken out by its brick-and-mortar competitor before that. It was not profitable last year.
Chewy was founded in 2011 by Ryan Cohen and Michael Day, and built a cult following for its excellent customer service, large selection and fast shipping. It had quietly raised at least $236 million in venture capital from investors including Volition Capital, T. Rowe Price and BlackRock.
Its under-the-radar status was probably aided by the fact that it was headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and not in a big e-commerce market like New York, Los Angeles or Seattle. But it did have a big name in the industry as chairman: Mark Vadon, who also co-founded Blue Nile and Zulily.
The deal seems like the type of bet-the-company acquisition by a traditional retailer that commerce-focused venture capitalists have been betting on for some time. While Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com was a huge deal by e-commerce standards, it represented just a fraction of Walmart’s market value. Silicon Valley investors are surely hoping more will follow in PetSmart’s path, as brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to adapt to the impact of changing shopping behaviors.
PetSmart had announced its intention to acquire Chewy on Tuesday morning, but didn’t disclose a price. PetSmart is owned by a group of private equity investors led by BC Partners.