Amazon to snap up Zappos

E-commerce giant will be acquiring all of the online retailer's stock and converting it to Amazon stock in a deal worth about $847 million.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

Whoa. This was unexpected: Amazon has agreed to a stock takeover of Zappos.com, a Las Vegas-based online retailer that has become famous for its unusual corporate culture.

While Zappos started out selling only shoes, it has since expanded to other products.

"This morning, our board approved and we signed what's known as a 'definitive agreement,' in which all of the existing shareholders and investors of Zappos (there are over 100) will be exchanging their Zappos stock for Amazon stock," a memo posted to Zappos by CEO Tony Hsieh read. "Once the exchange is done, Amazon will become the only shareholder of Zappos stock."

Until this point, Zappos was privately owned.

Amazon provided more details in an official release: The company will acquire all outstanding Zappos shares in exchange for roughly 10 million shares of Amazon common stock, which comes out to be about $807 million. Additionally, the transaction involves about $40 million in cash and restricted stock units to Zappos employees. The transaction is expected to be complete this fall.

"We think that there is a huge opportunity for us to really accelerate the growth of the Zappos brand and culture, and we believe that Amazon is the best partner to help us get there faster," Hsieh wrote in his memo, adding that he and other Zappos executives plan to stay on board. "Amazon supports us in continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Zappos brand and with our unique culture."

Zappos.com got a new look a little over a year ago, when it broadened its offerings beyond just shoes.

Hsieh has become a regular speaker on the tech and marketing conference circuit because of his offbeat way of running a company: encouraging employees to Twitter, offering prospective hires $2,000 to turn a Zappos job offer down, and placing customer service at the top of the priority list with free shipping and returns.

"As you know, one of our core values is to build open and honest relationships with communication, and if I could have it my way, I would have shared much earlier that we were in discussions with Amazon so that all employees could be involved in the decision process that we went through along the way," Hsieh wrote. "Unfortunately, because Amazon is a public company, there are securities laws that prevented us from talking about this to most of our employees until today."

Reports had circulated recently that Amazon was looking at acquiring movie rental outlet Netflix. It has a history of being quite acquisition-friendly. Last year, the company bought audiobook retailer Audible for $300 million, rare book site AbeBooks for an undisclosed amount, and book-centric networking site Shelfari (also for an undisclosed amount).

Amazon actually operates its own shoe and handbag retail site, Endless.com, which is mostly free of Amazon branding. The site launched early in 2007.

This story was last updated at 2:01 p.m. PDT.