Brad Feld

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Taking on the FTC in a Corporate Blog

Jun 20, 2007

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, has an excellent blog post up on the Whole Foods web site titled Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, and The Federal Trade Commission

Whole Foods is trying to acquire Wild Oats and the FTC is challenging the merger.  As I scanned through my online newspapers this morning as part of my morning routine, I saw articles in each of them (Boulder Camera, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, NY Times, and WSJ) about this.  The deal is getting a lot of airplay locally since Wild Oats is a Boulder-based company and Whole Foods has significant presence here.

Most of the articles positioned the story using a few quotes from an email from Mackey.  My first reaction was “eh – that sounds pretty normal from a CEO of the market leader – what’s the big deal?”  One of the articles pointed to the blog that Mackey wrote.  It’s brilliant – one of the best examples I’ve seen of a CEO using a corporate blog to get his point of view clearly out in the open.  The executive summary follows:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently filed a complaint challenging the merger of Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats. Whole Foods Market intends to fight this complaint in court. My blog posting provides a detailed look into Whole Foods Market’s decision-making process regarding the merger, as well as our company’s experience interacting with the FTC staff assigned to this merger. I provide explanations of how I think the FTC, to date, has neglected to do its homework appropriately, especially given the statements made regarding prices, quality, and service levels in its complaint. I also provide a glimpse into the bullying tactics used against Whole Foods Market by this taxpayer-funded agency. Finally, I provide answers in my FAQ section to many of the questions that various Team Members have fielded from both the media and company stakeholders.

As stated in our initial press release about Whole Foods Market’s challenge to the FTC’s complaint, we set an intention as a company to be as transparent as possible throughout this process. This is my first detailed effort at transparency. We will provide additional information as we field new questions and receive updates on the proceedings from the FTC and the courts.

The goal of transparency is presumably one that the FTC – if they approach this from an enlightened point of view – can respect.  Many corporate blogs are just regurgitated PR – the authenticity of this one from Mackey is really impressive. Who knows how this really plays out – it’ll be instructive to watch.