its beginnings as one small store in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market has
grown into the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods, with
hundreds of locations in North America and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods was
founded by Craig Weller, Mark Skiles, and John Mackey, the current CEO. Whole
Foods has expanded through the acquisition of numerous companies, including but
not limited to Wellspring Grocery, Fresh Fields, Bread of Life, Merchant of
Vino, Allegro Coffee, Nature’s Heartland, and Harry’s Farmers Market, among
others. The most recent acquisition was Wild Oats Markets.
the acquisition of Wild Oats was not without its problems. The Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) filed suit in June 2007 to block Whole Foods’ acquisition of
Wild Oats out of antitrust concerns. Then in August 2007, a federal appeals
court turned down the FTC’s request to overturn a federal district court ruling
allowing Whole Foods to complete its purchase of its rival.
while conducting its antitrust review, the FTC discovered that, over a period
of several years, John Mackey had posted comments about Whole Foods and its
competitors in the online stock forums of Yahoo! Finance. Mackey used the
screen name “Rahodeb”—an anagram of Deborah, the name of Mackey’s wife—to
conceal his true identity. At least 240 of Rahodeb’s 1,300 or so posts
mentioned Wild Oats, a company with which Mackey had a bitter rivalry.
acrimony between Mackey and Perry Odak, CEO of Wild Oats, can be traced to the
first time the two men met at a retailing conference in Manhattan in 2001. “I’m
going to destroy you,” Mackey shouted at Odak. Whole Foods’ officials tell a
different version of the story—with milder language—but the confrontation has
persisted as a food-industry legend.
nearly eight years, John Mackey wrote his pseudonymous posts, some lauding
Whole Foods’ financial results, and others castigating its rival Wild Oats. In
January 2005, Rahodeb posted this opinion: “No company would want to buy Wild
Oats Markets Inc.” Rahodeb continued, “Would Whole Foods buy OATS? Almost
surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too
small. [Wild Oats management] clearly doesn’t know what it is doing OATS
has no value and no future.” Other comments that Mackey posted under the
Rahodeb alias included the following: “While I’m not a Mackey groupie I do
admire what the man has accomplished.” “I love the company and I’m in it for
the long haul. I shop at whole foods. I own a great deal of its stock. I’m
aligned with the mission and the values of the company are there something
wrong with this?”
asserts that his online comments were personal, not professional. However,
Mackey’s friends and colleagues say there is little distinction between his
personal and professional sides, and that he is straightforward and
transparent. Mackey’s defenders also say, “his anonymous comments—though
boastful, provocative and impulsive—were no different from his public ones, and
were never intended to disclose insider information or move stock prices.”
a statement published in mid-July 2007 on the Whole Foods’ Web site, Mackey
“said his anonymous statements didn’t reflect his or the company’s policies or
beliefs. Some of the views Rahodeb expressed, Mr. Mackey said, didn’t match his
own beliefs.” Mackey further stated that he made the anonymous comments on
Yahoo Finance because he “had fun doing it.”
online activities were investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC) and the FTC. As the legal wrangling unfolded, charges and countercharges
were slung—not just by the direct participants, but by interested observers as
well—and utterly delicious twists and turns kept emerging. FTC lawyers were
shocked that their “‘gotcha’ haul of off-color statements by Mackey wasn’t
enough to block his merger with Wild Oats in the absence of serious antitrust
evidence.” However, Mackey asserted that the FTC was “running ‘a rigged game’
that handcuffs retailers and other companies under its jurisdiction.”
commentators castigated Mackey. For instance, John Hollon, editor of the
Business of Management blog characterizes Mackey as “a delusional apologist for
his own bad behavior.” Others, however, were less critical. The blogger Andres
Acosta, disagrees with Hollon, saying, “I look at it differently. I appreciate
his transparency and willingness to admit to making a mistake. It’s the sign of
a great leader who can pick himself up after taking a hard fall and keep moving
forward.” Chiming in with a nuanced argument that could be interpreted as
supporting either a positive or negative view of Mackey is Adam Sarner, an
analyst at Gartner Inc., who says, “[t]he need for executive online
transparency depends on the context of the post.”
John Mackey been vindicated in Whole Foods’ acquisition of Wild Oats? Hallie
Mummert, writing in Target Marketing, says, “[w]hat some chalked up to a
bizarre display of self-aggrandizement, others pegged as unethical and possibly
illegal behavior.” And business blogger, Laurie Ruettimann, writes, “Great
companies operate on the right side of the ethical spectrum and have little
tolerance for ‘spin.’” Mackey himself, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, says,
“If I could get the money back, I’d take it. We would be better off today if we
hadn’t done this deal—taking on all this debt right before the economy
collapsed.” Even though Mackey has been described as “an opinionated
iconoclast,” he “succeeded in buying out his largest competitor, Wild Oats
Markets, and has expanded overseas to London, the next stop on his quest for
your paper answer the following questions:
- Using the ABC model of an attitude, discuss what you
think John Mackey’s online comments about Wild Oats reveal about his
- In your opinion, did John Mackey act in an ethical or
unethical manner? Why or why not?
- As an ethical, responsible leader, discuss the
cognitive moral development level that John Mackey’s behavior should fit.
- According to Mr. Mackey, some of the statements
attributed to Rahodeb did not match his personal beliefs. Why do you think
there is this conflict between attitude and behavior?
requirements below must be met for your paper to be accepted and graded:
- Write between 750 – 1,250 words (approximately 3 – 5
pages) using Microsoft Word in APA style, see example below.
- Use font size 12 and 1” margins.
- Include cover page and reference page.
- At least 80% of your paper must be original
- No more than 20% of your content/information may come
- Use at least three references from outside the course
material, one reference must be from EBSCOhost. Text book, lectures, and
other materials in the course may be used, but are not counted toward the
three reference requirement.
- Cite all reference material (data, dates, graphs,
quotes, paraphrased words, values, etc.) in the paper and list on a
reference page in APA style.
must come from sources such as, scholarly journals found in EBSCOhost, CNN,
online newspapers such as, The Wall Street Journal, government websites, etc.
Sources such as, Wikis, Yahoo Answers, eHow, blogs, etc. are not acceptable for
A detailed explanation of how to cite a source using APA can be found here (link).
Download an example here.