Whole Foods Takes on The Man

With all of this craziness in the economy, we’d almost forgotten that Whole Foods has been trying to acquire Wild Oats Markets for…what? About 10 years now?

Actually, the deal, which seems like ages ago, was only announced in February 2007. Later that year the FTC started opposing the deal, and now its come to Whole Foods filing a federal suit against the commission over its antitrust investigation of the transaction.

“There’s only one place where Whole Foods has a monopoly and that’s in the imagination of the lawyers at the Federal Trade Commission,” says Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, according to a recent Bloomberg. “How can a monopolist have negative same-store- sales? Are people starving to death now because there’s no place to eat in America?”

You tell ‘em!

But we think he has a point for a few reasons. For one, Whole Foods might be the largest grocer of its kind out there, but a lot of other regional chains, like Wegmans and The Fresh Market are doing many of the same things. And haven’t you noticed that most, if not all, of the big national players have rolled out organic-type sections. Even freakin’ WAL-MART sells “organic-cotton” cribs!

Plus, if the Whole Foods-Wild Oats deal were announced today, would the former even offer to pay close to $565 million for its rival’s stores?


7 Responses to “Whole Foods Takes on The Man”

  1. 1 K Summers December 11, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Whole Foods is an awesome grocer and market restaurant. Anything they can do to get larger, gain buying power and pass the savings along to their customers, I’m all for. Organic and whole foods is the way to go but for most of us, it’s too expensive. The FTC needs to worry about bigger fish.

  2. 2 James December 11, 2008 at 10:10 am

    The test for a monopoly is what would happen if they disappeared. In this case, nothing, John Mackey is absolutely right. The FTC must be smoking their own organic stuff. Of course John’s blogging didn’t win him any friends.

  3. 3 MAL December 11, 2008 at 11:59 am

    For an even more fascinating twist. Check out the drama in Portland, OR regarding our local New Seasons receiving a subpeona in the case to provide market information and store strategies.


  4. 4 manchu December 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    FTC needs to not waste our tax dollars. Whole foods is in no way monopolizing. There is still plenty of competition of same type store, or same products in existing common grocers.

  5. 5 bill December 11, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    while i agree with the article in general, the question that’s really worth asking is: Why isn’t Wild Oats suing the FTC? After all, aren’t they the biggest loser here (no way WF is going to pay the price they were willing to pay inFeb ’07).

  6. 6 James December 11, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    MAL, John is his own worst enemy. Any FTC claim of monopolization is ridiculous on the face of it and using the case to try to intimate competition and access sensitive information is just the kind of egotistical nonsense no one needs, least of all a good company like Whole Foods. Mackey needs to be put out to pasture, hopefully an organically grown one where wet grass can grow up between his toes!

  7. 7 Bumbling Bob December 12, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Whole Foods is an appealing but overpriced grocery store concept. John Mackey, however, is nothing more than a arrogant, disingenuous, conniving bully. What is in the water down there in Texas that creates such monsters. New Seasons, on the otherhand, is a truly refreshing business concept to be applauded- an authentic, community-based, ‘green’ enterprise. I hope and trust that New Seasons represents the new business model of the future, not Whole Foods.

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