Online wholesaler Boxed acquired after filing for bankruptcy

After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April, online wholesale retailer Boxed has been acquired. U.S.-based regional distributor MSG Distributors, Inc. announced this morning its acquisition of and “other intellectual property portfolios and affiliates” in an all-cash transaction.

The acquisition price was not disclosed, but it’s not likely a high-value deal for a company that had raised north of $318 million through its lifetime, according to data from PitchBook.

MSG says it will continue to serve Boxed customers, vendors and brands following the acquisition.

Founded in 2013, Boxed’s original premise was to offer consumers an online version of something like Costco or Sam’s Club, where they could buy in bulk — but without having to worry about annual membership fees or driving back and forth to the stores. Instead, the bulk items would ship to their doorstep.

In the years that followed, Boxed reportedly rejected a $400 million buyout offer from grocer Kroger in 2018, then later partnered with one of Asia’s largest retailers (Aeon) in 2021 for an expansion. At the time, Boxed had more than 7 million registered users and reported it was close to profitability.

In 2021, Boxed completed a reverse merger, acquiring Seven Oaks Acquisition in a $900 million SPAC deal in order to begin trading on the NYSE under the ticker symbol BOXD. The transaction was expected to provide Boxed with about $334 million in net cash proceeds, including a $120 million private investment from investors such as Brigade Capital Management, Avanda Investment Management and Onex Credit, Reuters reported.

But it’s clear Boxed struggled to make the economics of online grocery work, and it wasn’t alone. Other food delivery services have shut down or announced layoffs, including in particular fast-delivery services like Food Rocket’s 2023 closure and Gopuff’s multiple rounds of cost-cutting, among others. In addition, various regional services like Peapod and Bay Area-based Zero Grocery have either scaled back or closed over the past few years.

In January 2023, PitchBook reported Boxed was in talks to be acquired for an undisclosed sum, but the deal fell through.

This April, Boxed announced it would sell its Spresso software-as-a-service business to its first lien secured lenders while winding down its remaining retail business as part of the bankruptcy process. The company had been trying to raise more capital in the months prior to this announcement and looking for other exit possibilities, ultimately raising up to $20 million in January.

The Chapter 11 announcement followed the news that Boxed held the majority of its cash deposits and other liquid assets in the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank, which some correctly guessed might be the final nail in Boxed’s coffin.

Going forward, MSG’s plan for is to continue to deliver to customers the brands they loved from the retailer, while also providing access to a catalog of new items and brands in the grocery and home goods space.

U.S.-based MSG has distribution facilities across New YorkFloridaTexas and California. Its portfolio includes natural food brands and sports nutrition, including PowerBar, NuGo, RxBar, Amazing Grass, R Bar Energy, Long Island Iced Tea, Mocu Health, Grenade, Protein Puck, Betty Lou’s, Cellucor, Almased and others. It caters to gyms, natural health food stores, pharmacies, sports centers, delis and other retail locations. 

“This acquisition strengthens our inorganic growth strategy and diversifies our distribution models nationwide,” said Mark Gadayev, MSG’s president, in a statement. “The loyalty and trust that customers and brands have in Boxed is priceless, and we are committed to continue this model of offering bulk-sized products to customers at wholesale prices.”

Update, 8/23/23: MSG looks like it may have bought another company as well:: as the website, indicating it’s under new management, and has the exact same landing page, FAQ, and layout as the website. MSG has not responded to repeated requests for comment.