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Ear to the Ground

Whole Foods CEO Bashed Wild Oats Online Before Takeover Bid

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Posted on Jul 12, 2007

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, apparently behaved in not so wholesome a manner when he spent time bashing Wild Oats stocks on a Yahoo stock-market forum under the pseudonym “Rahodeb” not long before his company bid to take over the competing natural foods market chain.  The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to block the takeover on antitrust grounds. (Via BoingBoing)

Smart Money:

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)—In January 2005, someone using the name “Rahodeb” went online to a Yahoo stock-market forum and posted this opinion: No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share.

“Would Whole Foods buy OATS?” Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats’ stock symbol. “Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small.” Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock fell below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats management “clearly doesn’t know what it is doing. . . . OATS has no value and no future.”

The comments were typical of banter on Internet message boards for stocks, but the writer’s identity was anything but. Rahodeb was an online pseudonym of John Mackey, co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market Inc. Earlier this year, his company agreed to buy Wild Oats for $565 million, or $18.50 a share.

For about eight years until last August, the company confirms, Mr. Mackey posted numerous messages on Yahoo Finance stock forums as Rahodeb. It’s an anagram of Deborah, Mr. Mackey’s wife’s name. Rahodeb cheered Whole Foods’ financial results, trumpeted his gains on the stock and bashed Wild Oats. Rahodeb even defended Mr. Mackey’s haircut when another user poked fun at a photo in the annual report. “I like Mackey’s haircut,” Rahodeb said. “I think he looks cute!”

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By Jon Harmon, July 13, 2007 at 7:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That Mackey’s behavior was irresponsible is without a doubt. Whether it was also criminal is the issue. Mackey deliberately used his anonymous attacks to hurt his competitor, and likely to drive down the value of a stock Whole Foods would try to acquire.


Will the blogosphere’s defenders of transparency rush to condemn this unethical behavior by a supposedly “good guy company” with the same fervor that was directed against other larger corporations? Don’t you think Wal-Mart’s “flogging across America” was pretty tame by comparison?

What will blogs become when they grow up? Join the conversation at http://jon8332.typepad.com/force_for_good/2007/07/what-will-blogs.html

Jon Harmon
http://www.forceforgoodcom.com

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