John Mackey helped out of Whole Foods Chair.

Via on Dec 29, 2009

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, “voluntarily” resigns as Chairman of Board.

A few months back the CEO/Chairman of Whole Foods, John Mackey, who I’ve had the pleasure of talking with several times, penned an anti-Obama Health Care Reform editorial in the Wall Street Journal. (I met with him at his Boulder home for an hour once, and he outlined an optimistic view of the future, and agreed to an interview…right before he got busted for moonlighting on the web, dissing Wild Oats while moving to buy it. Asked to shut up by his board, the interview was rainchecked. Three years later, we’re still waiting.)

Immediately following the anti-Obama healthcare reform Wall Street Journal editorial I was one of the few knee-jerk liberals to jump to Mr. Mackey’s defense—I felt he had a right to call the Republican playbook on “ObamaCare” (you know, Democracy, free exchange of ideas.

While I became the most prominent (probably because I was one of very few) national voice defending Whole Foods against a progressive calls for a boycott (my defense of Whole Foods on elephantjournal.com made the home page of the Huffington Post for close to a week, and was quoted in the New York Times and Atlantic, as well as hundreds of smaller blogs)…

…and while Mackey’s editorial was edited in a partisan manner by the conservative Wall Street Journalers (now controlled by Darth Murdoch)…

…and while Mackey’s editorial actually brought in a whole new demographic (now called Whole Foods Republicans), his editorial was unfortunate.

Coming from a leader of mindful business (Mackey calls his brand of biz “Conscious Capitalism“), his voice was an outsized one, and had the effect of both bruising and engaging the health care cause.

Here’s my read on his being pushed out of the Chair, which he’s held since 1978: love or hate him, Mackey is the Steve Jobs of Whole Foods: integrity, brilliant, arrogant, and usually right on. His power will be lessened somewhat—he’s still CEO but his control of WFM will be more like steering a big boat, instead of a little speedy Tesla—even one step removed from absolute power, a la Putin, Mackey will hopefully continue to shape what is one of the great greener-than-most-by-far business success stories of the last century.

john mackey

Excerpt on the Chairmanship via ABC:

At Whole Foods’ annual shareholders meeting in March, CtW Investment Group, a shareholder activist group that works with union pension funds, unsuccessfully proposed that the CEO and chairman roles be separated. The grocer said it has been receiving these proposals for three years.

But in August, CtW raised the stakes by calling for the CEO’s removal. The activist group said an editorial by Mackey opposing President Obama’s health care plan damaged the company’s reputation, especially among its left-leaning customers.

The group said Mackey “attempted to capitalize on the brand reputation of Whole Foods to champion his personal political views but has instead deeply offended a key segment of Whole Foods consumer base.”

CtW said Mackey has become a “liability” because of his “indiscretion.”

The shareholder activist has wanted Mackey to relinquish his chairman title because it believes an independent chairman could improve the company’s stock price performance. CtW noted the stock had fallen 30 percent over the past five years ending Sept. 30, 2008 compared with a 14 percent gain in the S&P 500 Index.

For the whole story, click here.

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11 Responses to “John Mackey helped out of Whole Foods Chair.”

  1. Interesting that the shareholder activist group wanted to remove Mackey from the Chairman position in order to raise stock prices! That almost makes me want to defend Mackey, even though I totally disagree with him on his anti-Obamacare and anti-union stances.

    • Well, of course, that's the pragmatic logic I'd imagine they'd have to tie in to their pro-union, anti-anti-health care reform views…or the rest of the stakeholders wouldn't have gone along I wouldn't think.

  2. Via our http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal Page

    Tyson
    Good. About effin time!

    elephantjournal.com
    I actually think it's for the worse…I say why in the article above. Still, it's understandable I'm sure.

    Brigham
    What a ***** he was!
    Bring back Hass!
    Not only does he know the business but he plays a consistent game of tennis.
    He was the real starter upper of Organic food in Boulder,

    Tyson
    Waylon, I don't understand your admiration for John Mackey. The guy is playing the same game as Wal-Mart exec's. I guess it's just that Whole Foods is Boulder cool or something.

    Adontai
    This may not be a good move for Whole Foods. Like it or not John Mackey is the face of the company. Without him it could become just another corporation solely interested in profits and stock performance.

    Francine
    As a long termer in the natural foods industry, ex pat of WFM (in acquisition, and in national post), I consider myself fortunate to have worked with a man who's business instincts have contributed more to the growth of organic agriculture through WFM's initiative than any other single force. Macky may indeed be guilty of indiscretion, but he's been a positive force in sustainable business practice.

    Tyson
    They are corporate. High prices and low wages is a corporate goal. They monopolize the organic foods hub and swing big doing it by pushing out small vendors and replacing them with there own crappy 360 brand which costs them a fraction of the price then using companies who put more heart and soul into it than they do.
    Have you ever tried to request… See More whole foods to be a part of some community action, it's bs the stuff you have to do to even be addressed. I had more luck getting a hold of the CFO of Virgin than a secretary at Whole Foods.
    If you want to be healthy and shop at Whole Foods to do so, fine, but don't try to paint them as some poor little mom and pop market who is going to be screwed by John Mackey getting canned, because they might go corporate. Seriously!

    Ellen
    Stop! You're both right! He's a desert topping AND a floor wax!

    elephantjournal.com
    Tyson, I think my point was not that they're a mom n'pop, which clearly they aren't…but that, like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates ro someone, John is that (right or wrong) kind of leader or entrepreneur that, by and large, ahs done a lot of good in showing that green = green. We have to show the business world that doing the right thing (most of the time, John himself knows WFM ain't perfect, he said so recently in his "junk" comment, google it) can be good business.

    I agree they're inaccessible. They've never done a single thing with elephant, advertised, returned an email or phone call…it's sad. We've done probably 100 articles on 'em, 95% positive, and we'll keep doing so when what they do is worth trumpeting. The one time I talked with them, ever, the WFM manager nearly hung up on me. He was harsh, condescending…it was shocking.

    Still, I look up to WFM and respect that they help thousands of green-minded entrepreneurs get their products out there. … See More

    And there's still plenty of competition, if that' what you're afraid of–mainstream groceries have organics sections, there's Trader Joe's, Vitamin Cottages, and coops in some cities.

    Anyway, great discussion, you have good points as always Tyson and it's great to see you back in the mix.
    2 seconds ago ·

  3. Whole Foods has been and will continue to be A Good Investment…better to profit with this company then many others…WFMI stock from $8 to $28 in the last 15 months or so.
    If you eat organic foods might as well as make it your investment as well – also look at UNFI (United Natural Foods)

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  4. [...] John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods: “No scientific consensus exists” re Climate Change. [...]

  5. [...] I penned an article criticizing John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods, for voicing doubt on the supposed lack of scientific consensus behind Climate [...]

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  10. Buddy, I think in some ways his far-right slash Libertarian stances help broaden the appeal of what might otherwise be a destination only for progressives, yuppies, and progressive yuppies. Of course, for every "Whole Foods Republican" he brings in by making his I don't Believe in Health Care Reform or Climate Change views known, he's sure to lose a greenie and or liberal who'll try and support someone who's on, and cares about, our planet earth. Meaning, they'll try and support their local co-op, Vitamin Cottage, Sunflower, farmers' market, Trader Joe's, etc…first.

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