I don’t know why I find this story so funny, perhaps because being a So Cal girl all of my life I watched the rise of Wild Oats, followed by the advent of Whole Foods and the subsequent monopoly of it. The CEO of Whole Foods John Mackey was, for years, posting under a typical forum “handle”, which was his wife Deborah’s name spelled backwards. It wasn’t that he posted on a Yahoo finance message board it’s what he chose to post there. He all but tried to crush Wild Oats by sabotaging its stock value. One guy on a message can’t do a lot of damage but the fact that it was THIS guy, and that Whole Foods then bought Wild Oats, is what the hoopla is about. It cracks me up though because here are these two harmony and crystals health food stores where all of we liberal lefties go with our cloth bags to buy our teas and organic produce and hormone-free meats and all the while sinister goings-on were underway.
For the record, Wild Oats appears to have been the innocent “little guy” in all of this. Frankly, Whole Foods didn’t need “harobed” in the forums because they were, simply, a better store. Wild Oats has the elite part of the Westside and the best locations and didn’t seem to draw as big a traffic nightmare as Whole Foods does. I liked them. They were a fine establishment. I used to frequent the one on Montana when I lived in Santa Monica. I loved their coffees and water selection. No, they weren’t Whole Foods but they were the prototype for Whole Foods. There is certainly room for both Whole Foods and Wild Oats in Santa Monica. Trust me on that one. What that city needs in another Von’s. The person who comes up with a less expensive way for citizens to buy whole foods will win the day in the end. The Walmart of the organic market.
Here is the guy’s defense:
Once this practice became public, Mackey quickly defended his actions in a blog posting. It’s worth reading. Here are five of the seven points he makes.
“1. I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it. Many people post on bulletin boards using pseudonyms.
“2. I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.
“3. The views articulated by rahodeb sometimes represent what I actually believed and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes I simply played ‘devil’s advocate’ for the sheer fun of arguing. Anyone who knows me realizes that I frequently do this in person, too.
“4. Rahodeb’s postings therefore do not represent any official beliefs, policies, or intentions by either Whole Foods Market or by me.
“5. At no time did I reveal any proprietary information about Whole Foods on Yahoo.”
It’s like Nixon and the Watergate tapes. There is a part of them that wants the public to know just how dirty they could play the game. Meanwhile, the LA Times asks, “Should Whole Foods unplug John Mackey’s computer”
Whole Foods now has to sell all of its Wild Oats stores. Its evil plan didn’t work!