Saturday, August 22, 2009

Whole Foods CEO Sold Company Stock Prior to WSJ Op-Ed

On August 6th, six days before his now infamous op-ed piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Whole Foods CEO John P. Mackey sold 50,000 shares of WFMI stock worth $1.4 million. On the same day, Whole Foods Co-President and COO Walter E Robb IV sold 8,333 shares.

In light of this, a couple of questions arise: could the reason for the sale be that Mackey actually expected a backlash? Could n light of this, a couple of questions arise: could the reason for the sale be that Mackey actually expected a backlash? Could Mackey's op-ed simply be a scheme to induce a WFMI stock plunge as a result of a predictable backlash from its progressive customer base so that he could buy stock at a lower price later on?

So far the strategy doesn't seem to be working: WFMI stock has actually risen since Mackey sold it, but it's also too early to tell. The boycott is still in its initial phases and given all the coverage that it's receiving it could pick up steam over time.

Speculations aside, such a conspicuous sale right before Mackey's predictably backfiring statement is something that should be looked into by the Board of Directors and shareholders. If if turns out that Mackey manufactured the entire controversy for personal gain, and at the expense of the company's shareholders, it would be enough grounds for the CEO's dismissal.

John Makey is not new to this kind of antics either. In 2007, the New York Times reported that for seven years, Mackey had an online alter ego which he used to relentlessly promote the company’s stock as well as to attack competitor Wild Oats Markets in order to lower its stock price prior to acquiring the firm.

Update: thanks to ban nock for reminding me that on August 5th, a day prior to selling the stock, Mackey was quoted in the Guardian saying that Whole Foods sells "a bunch of junk." Maybe Mackey is simply unhappy with the direction the company has taken and these maneuvers could be an effort by the disgruntled CEO to push the company "back to its roots in selling healthy food."

Update II: according to, the August 6th WFMI stock sale by John Mackey was, by far, his biggest since 2005.

2009-08-06: Sale: 50,000 shares; value: $1,392,550 .
2008-02-25: Option Exercise: 16,000 shares; value $182,992.
2008-02-25: Sale: 8,000 shares; value: $291,416.
2007-03-23: Option Exercise: 16,000 shares; value $167,488.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whole Foods Boycott

Last week, Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey wrote an opinion piece in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal titled "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare," opposing President Obama's efforts to create a government-funded public healthcare option. He also criticized the single-payer healthcare system of countries such as Canada and Britain saying he doesn’t believe in “an intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter,” which he said are best provided through “market exchanges.” This is not very different than Bush's position on health care.

In the op-ed piece, John Mackey writes that a "careful reading of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter." Mr. Mackey either ignores or doesn't care about the fact that the United States has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 25 of the declaration states:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
I used to spend around of $200 a week ($10,000 a year) at Whole Foods, but after reading Mackey's piece, I've decided to no longer shop there and buy my groceries somewhere else. Various organizations such as Single Payer Action have also called for a boycott of the chain.

Update I: there is now a Facebook boycott page with 20,000 members as of August 20, 2009. The Baltimore Sun reports that for every 7,700 customers boycotting, there is a 1% loss of revenue for the store chain. You do the math.

Update II:, a dedicate website for the Whole Foods boycott is now up and running.

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