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The Boston Globe this morning carries a long interview with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, in which he talks about the controversy that erupted last year when it was discovered that he had used anonymous postings on the Internet to criticize rival grocer Wild Oats, only to subsequently launch a successful bid to acquire that company.


• "I wasn't allowed to defend myself. That went against every instinct. I wanted to come out with my truth and talk to every journalist and go on all the talk shows. I thought I was being slandered. But because we were under investigation by the SEC, the company's attorney advised that I say nothing until the investigation was completed. The SEC investigation just ended a few weeks ago, and I will be posting on my blog again my side of the story … I have to address a lot of the falsehoods that the media said. Did I post to drag down Wild Oats stock price? Was Whole Foods trying to buy it cheaper?"

• "I've been vindicated by the SEC. First amendment rights apply to chief executive officers as well."

• "I participate in a number of online communities - pretty much anything I'm interested in. The thing I'm most interested in the world is Whole Foods. Plus, a large percentage of posters on a board like that are people that have an ax to grind. Whole Foods is my child. And here was my child being abused by all these vicious people. Almost all of my posts were responses that I made to lies and attacks that people had about Whole Foods. I defended Whole Foods. Somebody had to. That's really how I saw it … I still see it that way. I wasn't ashamed of what I wrote. Things were taken out of context."

On switching to canvas shopping bags at Whole Foods… "When you look at the statistics on how many plastic grocery bags are disposed of each year, the figures are incredible. They end up in landfills, in oceans. So the movement began, we had a couple of stores do it, then a region or two. The response was so positive that we said this is clearly something the customers want."

On the possibility that Wegmans could be competing with Whole Foods in Massachusetts… "They're one of the best competitors we face anywhere in the US. They do a really good job on perishables, produce, meats, seafood, prepared foods - that's one of Whole Foods' strengths as well. But competition helps make you better. Competition keeps you from resting on your laurels, getting complacent, taking customers for granted."

KC's View:
By the way, last time I checked, Wegmans was considered to be part of the mainstream grocery business. The fact that Mackey considers Wegmans to be a competitor speaks volumes about his argument against the Federal Trade Commission, which says that Whole Foods actually has a monopoly in the much smaller organic/natural foods retail business.

The FTC has been wrong on this from the beginning.