A weird twist in the Whole Foods saga

As if Whole Foods’ proposed acquisition of Wild Oats weren’t already in enough trouble, the Wall Street Journal reports today that Whole Foods chief executive John Mackey pseudonymously posted messages on Yahoo discussion groups about the wonderfulness of Whole Foods, the lagging fortunes of Wild Oats and his own all-around genius.

Using the name “Rahodeb” (“Deborah,” his wife’s name, backwards jumbled up), Mackey apparently tried to drive down Wild Oats’ stock price in 2005 when it was $8 a share. Journal reporters David Kesmodel and John R. Wilke write:

“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.”

No wonder the Federal Trade Commission is all over this — there’s no way the agency could ignore such behavior. And Mackey’s contention that he was engaging in meaningless “macho posturing” is ridiculous.

Update: The New York Times account is worth a read, too.

Food fight

As a somewhat disgruntled customer of Wild Oats (my suggested motto: “You’d Better Want What We Have, Because We Don’t Have What You Want”), I’ve been looking forward to seeing my local outlet converted to a Whole Foods.

Now Daniel Gross of Slate tells us that the Bush administration has finally identified a proposed merger it doesn’t like. As Gross suggests, it sounds like revenge.