July 12, 2007
John Mackey: Call Me "Rahodeb"
Posted by Gordon Smith

I have been thinking about how to comment on the news that Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey posted on a Yahoo stock-market forum under the alias "Rahodeb," which is an anagram of Deborah, his wife. Fortunately, Jeff Lipshaw has saved me the trouble.

I must say, though, despite Jeff's noble effort, words cannot adequately convey the extent of Mackey's stupidity.  Mackey should be canned. Immediately. (If you disagree, take a few minutes and read some of Mackey's posts. The sidebar in this W$J story has a selection. Sheesh!)

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Comments (21)

1. Posted by Patrick on July 12, 2007 @ 19:45 | Permalink

Definitely. Given his "salary", the severance package can't be more than, say, five bucks.

2. Posted by Patrick on July 12, 2007 @ 19:45 | Permalink

Definitely. Given his "salary", the severance package can't be more than, say, five bucks.

3. Posted by Miriam Baer on July 13, 2007 @ 9:50 | Permalink

Apart from whether he should be fired, it raises the larger issue of whether a CEO or similar high level executives should ever post anything on any blog that relates in any way to their companies. (Lipshaw's advice seems to make the most sense: a resounding NO).

Many public companies already have internal policies that restrict employees from speaking without authorization to the press (they leave that job to the PR people, who are experts at pretending to say something when they are in fact saying nothing). Perhaps some companies will now expand (or perhaps clarify) those policies to apply to blogs.

4. Posted by Anthony on July 13, 2007 @ 9:58 | Permalink

Gordon -- your comments reflect the height of ignorance. Good luck in the classroom you dumb hick.

5. Posted by Ron on July 13, 2007 @ 10:21 | Permalink

Couldn't agree more Anthony although I'll try to be more polite.

Mackey engaged in a debate about the stock price and the competitive landscape -- oh the horror! If Gordon took the time to time to read about Mackey and Whole Foods, he would realize that Mackey is one of the best CEO's in the world -- all for the outrageous salary of $1 per year. As with Mr. Lipshaw, your post seems to reflect limit capacity to think and easy susceptibility to crowd folly -- scary considering you are actually paid to educate our youth.

6. Posted by Gordon Smith on July 13, 2007 @ 12:43 | Permalink

Miriam, This is a very interesting issue. I was looking around for other CEO blogs last night, and there aren't many among the Fortune 500. They are much more common among smaller companies, especially tech companies. Here is a nice site, for those who are interested. (Note that "CEO" mean "executive" on that site, so many of the bloggers are not actually CEOs.) By the way, Mackey is clearly the loose cannon among big-company CEO bloggers.

Anthony and Ron ... pseudonymous posters with Yahoo email addresses ... hmm. No wonder you like Mackey.

Actually, I am an investor in Whole Foods, and one of the reasons that I invested is that Mackey has a great vision for the company. But his behavior with regard to the Wild Oats acquisition -- both under his real name and under hi alias -- is not only embarrassing to the company, but exposes the company and himself to the real possibility of legal liability.

His blog postings about the FTC and the antitrust investigation have almost certainly made things worse for Whole Foods (even though I agree with much of what he says on the substance). And his anonymous postings raise all sorts of questions regarding stock price manipulation. I am not sure whether you are a lawyer, Ron, but if you are, you might want to take a refresher in securities regulation. CEOs don't have the liberty of just debating the stock price and the competitive landscape like sports fans on a team board. We actually have rules of engagement with real consequences. (Bainbridge also mentions this, too.)

7. Posted by Ron on July 13, 2007 @ 13:57 | Permalink

Completely off base Gordon. Calling for Mackey to be "immediately canned" is a completely irresponsible and uninformed opinion, especially from someone who presents himself as a professional in this area. It was a harmless debate about the stock price and competitive landscape. Let's keep this perspective and stop being a drama queen. Think independtly and don't fall prey to crowd folly -- it may have been unconventional (and given the media uproar, it was poor judgement) but there was nothing illegal in what he did.

And the blogs re the FTC in no way reduced the odds of getting approval for the OATS merger. What the FTC got their feelings hurt so now they are really not going to approve the merger? Give me a break -- they had no intention of looking at this merger objectively from the start. Any objective reading of Mackey's FTC posts can only conclude that he exposed the FTC as an inept and potentially corrupt organization, pursuing a completely misguided case against the merger -- they are asserting the merger will result in higher prices for the consumer and yet never asked for pricing data! Hysterical and scary. If they had studied the pricing data, the FTC would have learned that the Whole Foods prices (on average) are lower than those offered by Wild Oats. Further, the Mackey's posts on Yahoo had absolutely no relevance to the proposed merger and yet the FTC released them to the public -- that should be a concern for every citizen of the United States as a tax payer entity is clearly overstepping its bounds and abusing its power.

And if you were a WFMI shareholder, there is no way you would want Mackey fired -- he is truly an amazing CEO, leader, and positive/caring force in our society.

I'm done with your blog -- you obviously can't think objectively about this and only time will show you to be completely wrong.

Good luck.

8. Posted by Gordon Smith on July 13, 2007 @ 14:38 | Permalink

Ron, If you don't know that I am a Whole Foods shareholder, you obviously aren't a reader of this blog, because I was blogging about that long before these latest revelations about Mackey. So make your grand exit, but don't pretend that you are invested in the blog. Drama queen, indeed.

Re your comments, I can understand why you might want Mackey to remain as CEO. He has done a great job with the company. But managing a growth company and managing a mature company do not necessarily require the same skill set. He has set a good course for the company, and now the board should put a grownup at the helm.

9. Posted by Christine on July 13, 2007 @ 19:47 | Permalink

Perhaps Mr. Mackey is still around, commenting on blogs with pseudonyms. . . .

10. Posted by Jake on July 13, 2007 @ 20:54 | Permalink

Commenting on blogs via pseudonyms, in itself, is no ground for criticism. For a CEO of a public company to do so, as Mackey reputedly has, is to exalt vanity over common sense.

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