First it was the uber naturals chain “going back to its [healthy] roots”. Now comes the announcement that Whole Foods co-founder and chief executive officer John Mackey is relinquishing his title of chairman. Yes, Mackey is giving up some of his ubiquity in the chain. Was it his choice? Probably not. ctW Investment Group, a federation of shareholder activists that work with union pension funds has been asking for the separation of the two roles for years. But following Mackey’s New York Times tirade against Obama’s health care plan, ctW asked that Mackey step down as chairman saying that “Mr. Mackey attempted to capitalize on the brand reputation of Whole Foods to champion his personal political views, but has instead deeply offended a key segment of Whole Foods consumer base.”
As a result, Mackey is giving up his chairmanship which he has held since 1978.
Will this help diving WF stocks? What about the chains’ reputation? During the difficult financial times of ’09, WF was seen by many as a bastion of frivolous over-priced non-necessities despite its efforts to market itself as affordable.
But what about its reputation in the naturals community? I can’t help but wonder if its straying from its natural roots has done irreconcilable harm. In a community that strives for authenticity, even often above the almighty dollar, will a makeover for WH be enough? And what kind of makeover are we talking? Merely cosmetic or core rebuilding? Stay tuned.