February 15, 2011

Sunflower Market CEO, Wild Oats co-founder Mike Gilliland Resigns after Child Prostitution sting.

Reporting: ~ Audrey Mangan & Waylon Lewis

Commentary: Waylon Lewis

Talking this over with a close friend when this was announced, we discussed how I didn’t want to report this in the first place—we don’t like to dish negative publicity when we have nothing original to add. That said, this alleged action, advertised as underage, videotaped and well documented (it was a sting operation), is if true a sad, bad thing. Mike is a parent, a leader, a visionary and should, of course know better.

The fact that he appears not to know better does not make him a bad guy. It makes him human. Like the rest of us, we all have our failings. We all should know better at various points. The difference, for Mike, is that he’s a multi-millionaire. A newlywed—he’d only recently remarried a young woman. Given every advantage, he was still apparently dissatisfied, hungry for something.

And this is why capitalism is not the answer. We can not “free” those in third world countries by hoping to create jobs, though that is vital work. Spirituality, or religion, strikes closer to the point—we must learn to be happy whether we are poor or rich. It’s a cliche, but so many rich people are still so unhappy. And so many people who live simply are, somehow, content.

So if you spend your days, as I do, devoted to business, to building something up…well remember the point of that business. It’s to create enlightened society. And if it’s not, make that the point of your life…or change that life. Or you and I might find ourselves pulling an unbelievably sad, stupid stunt like Mike.

~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

Via Audrey Mangan:

The Boulder Daily Camera shared the awful, sad news on Friday that Michael Gilliland, founder and CEO of the discount produce stores Sunflower Farmers Market, was arrested last week in Phoenix on the suspicion of soliciting sex with a minor. He resigned his position as CEO on Saturday and informed the company that he believes he is innocent.

Thanks to the Bill of Rights, Gilliland is innocent until proven guilty, but it is unlikely that he will ever truly recover from the negative publicity. I, for one, love Sunflower. Their produce is unbelievably cheap and they offer affordable options for organic and all-natural snacks, baking supplies, toiletries, and bulk foods. But with this sobering news, I’m putting my love for the stores on hold until more evidence is available.

This news is especially unfortunate for the elephant crew, given that Gilliland is based in Boulder and is a leader in the community, having helped establish Wild Oats as a leading rival of Whole Foods before being bought out a few years back.

For more details, go read the Camera article here.

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