The company was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1971 as Federal Express Corporation by Frederick W. Smith, a graduate of Yale University. He drew up the company's concept in a term paper at Yale, in which he called for a system specifically designed for urgent deliveries. While his professor didn't think much of the idea, Smith pressed on. He began formal operations in 1973, when he moved operations to Memphis. Smith cited his reasons for choosing Memphis International Airport included its location near the mean population center of the country and its lack of frequent inclement weather.
In 1981, their advertising firm Ally & Gargano hired performer John Moschitta, Jr., known for his fast speech delivery, to do an ad for Federal Express titled "Fast Paced World". This single commercial would be cited years later by New York as one of the most memorable ads ever.
The company grew rapidly, and by 1983 had a billion dollars in revenues, a rarity for a startup company that had never taken part in mergers or acquisitions in its first decade. It expanded to Europe and Asia in 1984. In 1988, it acquired one of its major competitors, Flying Tiger Line, creating the largest full-service cargo airline in the world. In 1994, Federal Express shortened its name to "FedEx" for marketing purposes, officially adopting a nickname that had been used for years.
Hidden within the logo in the negative space between the "E" and the "x" is an arrow, indicating that the company "moves." The logo was designed in 1994 by Lindon Leader of Landor Associates, who said they had developed 400 versions of the logo when they noticed that using an upper case "E" and lower case "x" created an arrow in the negative space, suggesting that "getting from point A to point B reliably with speed and precision" was the perfect message for the logo to send.
The FedEx logo is a wordmark designed in 1994 by Lindon Leader of Landor Associates, of San Francisco. It consists of Fed in purple and Ex in orange. The FedEx wordmark is notable for containing a subliminal right-pointing arrow in the negative space between the "E" and the "X", which was achieved by designing a proprietary font, based on Univers and Futura, to emphasize the arrow shape. Previously, the Ex was in a different color for each division and platinum for the overall corporation use. However, in August 2016, FedEx announced that all operating units will adopt the purple and orange color logo over the next five years (the same as the original FedEx logo, and later used by FedEx Express).
On October 2, 1997, FedEx reorganized as a holding company, FDX Corporation, a Delaware corporation. The new holding company began operations in January 1998, with the acquisition of Caliber System Inc. by Federal Express. With the purchase of Caliber, FedEx started offering other services besides express shipping. Caliber subsidiaries included RPS, a small-package ground service; Roberts Express, an expedited shipping provider; Viking Freight, a regional, less-than-truckload freight carrier serving the Western United States; Caribbean Transportation Services, a provider of airfreight forwarding between the United States and the Caribbean; and Caliber Logistics and Caliber Technology, providers of logistics and technology services. FDX Corporation was founded to oversee all of the operations of those companies and its original air division, Federal Express.
In January 2000, FDX Corporation changed its name to FedEx Corporation and re-branded all of its subsidiaries. Federal Express became FedEx Express, RPS became FedEx Ground, Roberts Express became FedEx Custom Critical, and Caliber Logistics and Caliber Technology were combined to comprise FedEx Global Logistics. A new subsidiary, called FedEx Corporate Services, was formed to centralize the sales, marketing, and customer service for all of the subsidiaries. In February 2000, FedEx acquired Tower Group International, an international logistics company. FedEx also acquired WorldTariff, a customs duty and tax information company; TowerGroup and WorldTariff were re-branded to form FedEx Trade Networks.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, FedEx Corp is the 79th largest campaign contributor in the United States, having donated over $29.8 million to federal candidates and committees since 1989, 37% of which went to Democrats and 63% to Republicans. Strong ties to the White House and members of Congress allow access to international trade and tax cut rebates as well as the rules of the business practices of the United States Postal Service. In 2001, FedEx sealed a $9 billion deal with the USPS to transport all of the post office's overnight and express deliveries.
FedEx Corp. acquired privately held Kinko's, Inc. in February 2004 and re-branded it FedEx Kinko's. The acquisition was made to expand FedEx's retail access to the general public. After the acquisition, all FedEx Kinko's locations offered only FedEx shipping. In June 2008, FedEx announced that they would be dropping the Kinko's name from their ship centers; FedEx Kinko's would now be called FedEx Office. In September 2004, FedEx acquired Parcel Direct, a parcel consolidator, and re-branded it FedEx SmartPost.
In 2005, FedEx was among 53 entities that contributed the maximum of $250,000 to sponsor the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.
In December 2007, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service "tentatively decided" the FedEx Ground Division might be facing a tax liability of $319 million for 2002, due to misclassification of its operatives as independent contractors. Reversing a 1994 decision which allowed FedEx to classify its operatives that own their own vehicles as independent contractors, the IRS audited the years 2003 to 2006, with a view to assessing whether similar misclassification of operatives had taken place. FedEx denied that any irregularities in classification had occurred, but faced legal action from operatives claiming benefits that would have accrued had they been classified as employees.
In June 2009, FedEx began a campaign against United Parcel Service (UPS) and the Teamsters union, accusing its competitor of receiving a bailout in an advertising campaign called "Brown Bailout". FedEx claimed that signing the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill, which would let some of its workers unionize more easily (and, according to the Memphis-based company, "could expose [its] customers at any time to local work stoppages that interrupted the flow of their time-sensitive, high-value shipments"), was equivalent to giving UPS a "bailout". Independent observers heavily criticized FedEx's wording, claiming that it was "an abuse of the term". FedEx Express employees are regulated under the Railway Labor Act.
The firm was named by Fortune magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for in 2013, citing the company's choice to downsize with voluntary buyouts rather than involuntary layoffs.
On January 14, 2013, FedEx named Henry Maier CEO and President of FedEx Ground, to take effect after David Rebholz retired on May 31, 2013. On July 17, 2014, FedEx was indicted for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in cooperation with the Chhabra-Smoley Organization and Superior Drugs. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "FedEx is alleged to have knowingly and intentionally conspired to distribute controlled substances and prescription drugs, including Phendimetrazine (Schedule III); Ambien, Phentermine, Diazepam, and Alprazolam (Schedule IV), to customers who had no legitimate medical need for them based on invalid prescriptions issued by doctors who were acting outside the usual course of professional practice." A representative for the company contested these claims, stating that it would violate personal rights of customers to deny service and that "We are a transportation company — we are not law enforcement". On July 17, 2016 the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed in a statement that it had asked U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer to dismiss the indictment but also did not say why.
In April 2015, FedEx acquired their rival firm TNT Express for €4.4 billion ($4.8 billion; £3.2 billion) as it looked to expand their operations in Europe.
In February 2016, FedEx announced the launch of FedEx Cares, a global giving platform, and committed to invest $200 million to strengthen more than 200 communities by 2020.
FedEx was criticized for its partnership with the National Rifle Association, which it terminated in 2018 under pressure from activists.
Safe streets activists have criticized FedEx, along with other parcel delivery services, for frequently illegally parking their vehicles in bike lanes while making deliveries, a practice that endangers cyclists. They were criticized alongside peers in a letter from Washington, D.C.'s transportation agency in 2018.
In March 2018, FedEx announced the acquisition of P2P Mailing Limited, a last-mile delivery service, for £92 million to expand their portfolio.
In September 2018, FedEx expanded FedEx Ground U.S. operations to six days per week due to the rise in demand for e-commerce.
In January 2019, FedEx Trade Networks was re-branded to FedEx Logistics.
In May 2019, FedEx announced the expansion of FedEx Ground U.S. operations to seven days per week during the holiday peak season. The service will continue year-round beginning in January 2020 for the majority of the U.S. population.
On June 1, 2019, China filed a case against FedEx for allegedly undermining the rights of Chinese clients. The investigation stemmed from allegations by Huawei that FedEx attempted to divert the shipping route of its packages without the company's prior authorization. which in turn have been denied by FedEx. It has been reported that FedEx refused to deliver a used Huawei phone into the US. Writers at PC Magazine tried to ship a Huawei P30 from a UK office to a US one to find it sent back a few days later.
In June 2019, FedEx announced they would not be renewing their $850 million contract with Amazon for the company's U.S. domestic express delivery business. Amazon accounted for 1.3 percent of 2018 revenues. In August 2019, FedEx announced the termination of ground deliveries for Amazon as well.
In July 2019, China accused FedEx of holding back more than 100 packages that Huawei was trying to deliver to China. Chinese regulators said that the company committed "violations" when it diverted Huawei parcels.
In December 2019, CNBC listed FedEx along with 378 additional Fortune 500 companies that "paid an effective federal tax rate of 0% or less" as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The New York Times reported that FedEx paid $1.5 billion in taxes after the 2017 fiscal year (effective tax rate of 34%) and then $0 after the 2018 fiscal year (effective tax rate of 0%) as a result of lobbying done by the company.
In July 2020, the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), the union that represents FedEx Corp pilots, called for a suspension on the company's Hong Kong operations. According to the union, some members were subject to "extremely difficult conditions" at hospitals urged by government mandates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FedEx was criticized more broadly for providing inadequate protections and sick leave during the pandemic.
For the fiscal year 2020, FedEx reported earnings of US$1.286 billion, with an annual revenue of US$69.217 billion, a decline of 0.7% over the previous fiscal cycle. FedEx's shares traded at over $273 per share, and its market capitalization was valued at over US$73 billion in December 2020. FedEx ranked No. 50 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.
In December 2020, FedEx acquired ShopRunner, an e-commence platform.
In early March 2021, FedEx announced plans to make its operations carbon-neutral by 2040. It's investing $2 billion in sustainable energy initiatives, including $100M for a new Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture and upgrading its aircraft and ground transportation fleets. It will be the first customer to take delivery of GM's electric EV600 delivery vans, as part of the goal of an all-electric ground fleet by 2040.
A FedEx Ground facility was the site of a mass shooting in Indianapolis on April 15, 2021., causing nine deaths (including the perpetrator) and at least 6 injuries. FedEx released a statement early the next morning, saying they were "deeply saddened" by the loss of their team members.