Staples Buys MSP Thrive Networks

The Framingham, Mass.-based office supply retailer has acquired Thrive Networks, a 7-year-old MSP in Concord, Mass., Thrive President Jim Lippie said in a letter posted on the company's Web site. Thrive has about 60 employees and more than 250 SMB customers in the Boston area.

Terms of the deal, finalized in late December, weren't disclosed. Calls to Lippie weren't returned.

With Thrive, Staples aims to expand its footprint in the market for IT services and remote managed services, according to a Staples spokesman.

Thrive was purchased by one of Staples' operating divisions, the Staples Contract Division, the spokesman said. The Contract Division is a non-retail, direct-sales organization that caters to businesses with 20 or more employees. Thrive's IT services will be sold directly to SMBs through the Contract Division's account managers. Having Thrive would help Staples sell IT services to businesses that have fewer than 20 employees.

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The Staples spokesman didn't know how many of the Contract Division's business customers were already doing business with another MSP. He declined to comment on whether Staples plans to acquire other MSPs. Thrive will maintain its autonomy and current management, the spokesman said.

Staples' push into managed services makes sense, since the market for SMB IT services is huge, according to Jon Whitlock, vice president of marketing development at CBE Technologies, an MSP and Reliable IT customer in Boston.

CBE sales staff working in the Boston area have rarely, if ever, faced competition from Thrive sales competition in the field, Whitlock said. Staples' effort to grow an MSP business may turn out to be little more than a glorified Best Buy Geek Squad strategy played at a level just above retail, he said.

Staples has more than 1,800 stores and has seen its sales rise consistently over the last five years. Third-quarter 2006 revenue was $4.8 billion, according to the company.