Whole Foods CEO John Mackey published an extraordinary blog post in his battle with the Federal Trade Commission, which has opposed its $670 million merger with Wild Oats. In the annals of corporate literature, it's unusual in the details it provides about the deal, and in Mackey's aggrieved personal take on the FTC. The only thing that comes close to this type of public venting is Warren Buffet's annual letters to shareholders. The lawyers must have been sweating.
I highly recommend the section explaining the deal and detailing Whole Food's competition, which is primarily Trader Joe's. The juicy part comes further down when CEO John Mackey says what he really feels about the FTC, leading him to conclude that Whole Foods will never pursue another merger that needs government approval.
He also argues that Whole Foods prices have never been determined by competition with Wild Oats, but with other competitors like Trader Joe's. (In DC, Whole Foods has actually gone so far as displaying check-out receipts from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods side-by-side to show customers it is competitive, even cheaper, on a basket of products. Presumably, the FTC never visited the "P" St. Whole Foods store across town - as I regularly do - to witness this evidence of competition).
Curiously, the FTC never asked for any pricing information, despite requesting 20 million documents, Mackey says. Still, the FTC has claimed prices will rise.
If you're interested in the organic and natural food marketplace, this makes for extremely interesting reading.
- Samuel Fromartz