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Staples Co-Founder Tom Stemberg Dead At 66

Thomas Stemberg, co-founder of Staples and co-creator of the office-supply superstore concept, succumbed to stomach cancer last Friday. He was 66.

He famously came up with the idea for Staples in 1985, when the former supermarket executive had trouble finding a replacement typewriter ribbon over the Fourth of July weekend.

“Tom came to a realization,” the company’s corporate site recounts. “The world needed a supermarket for office products.”

Fired from his supermarket job for resisting the sale of his warehouse division, he teamed up with Leo Kahn, a former Boston business rival (and later Tweeter investor), and opened the first Staples 10 months later in Brighton, Mass., using feed money from Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital.

(Stemberg eventually became a close friend, advisor and political supporter of Romney’s, and the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate credited him with pushing for the state’s affordable healthcare program.)

 Stemberg retired as Staples’ chairman in 2006, leaving behind what is now a $22 billion chain with 1,900 stores worldwide and one of the largest e-commerce operations on the planet.

Had he lived, he likely would have seen his company acquire rival Office Depot/OfficeMax in a $6.3 billion deal that’s still under review by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The New York Times ran a full bio, here.