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Staples founder Tom Stemberg has died


One of the retail industry’s true innovators, Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg, passed away on Friday at the age of 66.

Stemberg, who died at home after a two-year battle with gastric cancer, was considered the father of the office superstore format. With the backing of Bain Capital and its co-founder, Mitt Romney, he co-founded Staples in 1986, and went on to lead the company through a period of rapid growth to dominate the office products industry.

“Stemberg was “an extraordinarily creative and dynamic visionary,” Romney told theBoston Globe. “Tom is one of the great business leaders of our state and our nation. He was not only the founder, but someone who grew the company to a multibillion-dollar enterprise. He built an industry that employs thousands and thousands of people.”

After leaving Staples, Stemberg joined the venture capital firm of Highland Capital Partners in 2005, where he served as a general partner. According to his Highland profile, he was serving on the boards of CarMax, CitySports, DavidsTea, Guiltar Center, lululemon athletica and Pharmcac among others.

Staples chairman and CEO Ron Sargent issued the following statement:

“Tom was a visionary who invented the office products superstore and turned it into a global industry. He had great energy, determination, and an incredible passion for our business. His entrepreneurial spirit and legacy will live on through the many people he inspired and the company he created. On a personal note, I’ll remember Tom for his great sense of humor, and most of all, his caring nature.”

Stemberg began his retail career with the Jewel Company’s Star Markets, where he served as a VP of sales and merchandising.

Stemberg was born in Newark, New Jersey, the only child of Austrian immigrants Erika and Oscar Stemberg. He received an academic scholarship to Harvard College in 1967 to study organic chemistry.

After graduating in 1971, Stemberg attended Harvard Business School, where he received a master’s in business administration. Throughout his life, he was a devoted fan of the university’s basketball team, and established an endowment to fund the position of basketball coach Tommy Amaker.

“While he will be rightfully remembered as a brilliant leader and adviser to a number of wildly successful organizations that employ so many, to me he will always be the man who was there for Harvard basketball, supporting the dreams of young athletes who are better people for his generous devotion to the school and to the game,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who played basketball at Harvard, said in a statement.

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