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By John Mackey, December 24, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by John Mackey

After much thought and consideration, I have decided to voluntarily give up my title as Chairman of the Board.  While I don’t expect this to impact the day to day operations of the company in any way, I wanted to share the reasons for my decision with you.

 

I have held the Chairman title since Whole Foods Market’s beginning in 1978, but the reality is that today it is merely a title with no authority or responsibilities.  The authority and responsibilities normally associated with the Chairman position were all shifted over time to John Elstrott, after he became our Lead Director back in January 2001.  Despite this shift in responsibilities, Whole Foods, along with many other companies with combined CEO/Chairman roles, has been targeted by corporate governance activists for several years now seeking a separation of these roles.

 

The members of the Board and E-Team tried to talk me out of giving up the title; however, I don’t believe it is in the best interest of our company or our stakeholders to devote any more time or resources to fight this misperception over a title any longer.  John Elstrott will now take the title of Chairman of the Board, which will accurately reflect the authority and the responsibilities that he has had for many years.  I will remain a member of the Whole Foods Market Board and will continue to passionately serve as CEO, hopefully for many more years to come.

 

I remain incredibly excited about the future for Whole Foods Market!  As the world slowly moves out of the deep recession we’ve been in for most of the past two years, our company is well positioned to resume our growth and to continue to fulfill our company’s mission and core values.  Happy holidays to everyone.

Category: Board of Directors

 

65 Comments

Comments

John Gault says ...
John, I am sorry to see it come to this point. Tragically, Allan Bloom wrote about the closing of the American mind 21 years ago, his thesis is still unfolding. I knew when the original op-ed was published, that you were shaking up the wasps nest that is probably 80% of the firm's clientele. The dogmatic outcry to someone with a different opinion is sad, is illiberal, and reflects what passes for liberal "thought" these days. In my book you were, and still are, a hero for taking a stand and asserting individual liberty, which used to be what liberalism was about. It's funny how people who call themselves "liberals" today look to big government for the answers to social ills. We will prevail, John, because we are right. Utopian fantasies always fail because they are unnatural man-made constructs. REALITY ALWAYS WINS.
12/25/2009 2:33:00 PM CST
John says ...
Thank friggin god. It is about time. Merry Christmas to all shareholders! Your job was to run the company and all you have been doing for the past 4+ years is running it into the ground by running your mouth. I don't give a damn what your opinions are. The only thing I care about is making money on my Whole Foods Market shares, which hasn't happened since the split. Anytime you write an editorial, speaks to a group of libertarians about your "brilliance," trash competitors like Wild Oats (the company Whole Foods later purchased) on a yahoo stock discussion board disguised as "Rhadoba," a jumble of your wife's name or frankly, anytime that you open your mouth the stock prices tank. I would have sold my shares if the hit wouldn't have been so hard. Although a full departure would have been a true Christmas miracle, I'll take what I can get. This gives me some hope.
12/25/2009 6:06:13 PM CST
DF says ...
I have been a customer of Whole Foods since it first opened in New Orleans and now in Baton Rouge, but since John Mackey has been forced out by activists, I will no longer be shopping there.
12/25/2009 11:49:50 PM CST
Tejas says ...
John, I get the Dec 24 SEC filing. That's like the Friday afternoon "document dump" that Washington is famous for, designed to make the news have as little impact as possible. I even imagine that the filing was done at the last minute on Christmas Eve, at, like, 4:59 PM. And your Christmas Eve blog entry downplays the whole change as no big deal and long in the making. So the filing date is curious, as is the AP story being datelined Philadelphia. Whole Foods isn't based there, and the SEC isn't based there. I wonder why this story broke out of the AP's Philly bureau instead of as a formal press release issued by Whole Foods corporate HQ in Austin, Texas, especially since you swear this news is no biggie?
12/26/2009 12:41:30 AM CST
anonymous says ...
I was sincerely disappointed to read about this in SF Gate today. I think you have built a very unique organization. Your desire to direct things with the very same vision that helped make Whole Foods great and operationally superior, is now being criticized by some as "political". What a shame and what a silly world we have to live in occasionally. Keep up the good fight.
12/26/2009 9:15:33 AM CST
Julia Morton says ...
If John goes, and with him freedom of thought and the right to free speach, I quit too. I will not shop in Wholefood again. Free speach and free thought is more important than any particular government.
12/26/2009 4:21:36 PM CST
Michael McEvoy says ...
John, thanks for standing up for open market systems. I am proud of you and your willingness to take a public position. I stopped by my semi-local Whole Foods (I go out of my way to shop at your company - please open one in the East San Francisco Bay!) I have the pleasure to know a number of your employees and I have NEVER heard a negative word from any about the company, working conditions, and benefits... Just love for the company. You are a model for CEO leadership.
12/26/2009 10:03:27 PM CST
Kevin H. Davis says ...
Sorry to hear that you are stepping down. I respected your right to espouse your opinion. Sorry to see you cave in to what appears to be profit-line pressure.
12/26/2009 11:17:36 PM CST
michael mitchell says ...
<strong>Inflammatory </strong>I am so happy that John Mackey has stepped down as chairman.But i will not shop at Whole Foods until Mackey had left Whole Foods.And i have found heath food stores here where i live.This is the frist step next step is for Mackey to Leave Whols Foods.DONOT SHOP WHOLE FOODS.
12/28/2009 9:21:59 AM CST
John Kurtz says ...
Splitting the chair and CEO roles in today's politically charged environment is a prudent move and I sincerely hope it was not "forced" upon you by those of the left who are blind to any opinion but theirs. I consider you a patriot for expressing your views in the WSJ and John Stossel TV venues. It's refreshing to hear those that have first hand experience in running complex businesses propose meaningful change that make sense as opposed to the government telling us what's best for our behalf that only results in bigger intrusion in our lives. On a lighter note, we love your natural crunchy peanut butter. We have to buy it by the case as your closest location is Raleigh, NC, 2.5 hrs. from New Bern, our home. Please let us know your future plans if you have any for Eastern North Carolina. Keep up your good work. You have a fan for life.
12/28/2009 2:08:10 PM CST
vjklander says ...
It doesn't sound like much will change, and I suspect JM will continue to speak his mind. There are some very valid reasons to have separate Chairman/CEO functions in general. Any time I ramble through Falls Church I will definitely stop in for shopping. In the similar vein, Hey John! Giant is buying most, but not all Ukrops stores in the Fredericksburg, VA area. The store at the intersection of Rte 3 and Salem Church Rd would make a great Whole Foods Store!!!!
12/28/2009 2:51:23 PM CST
Kathleen Lazare says ...
Thank you for standing up for what is right. But you can't reason with closed minds. However rest assured that most of us feel the same way as you and we will be taking back our country. In the meantime I will no longer be shopping at Whole Foods. I may only be one person but it has to start somewhere. Thank you.
12/28/2009 6:38:32 PM CST
Victoria Bennett says ...
John Mackey-I think he is WONDERFUL! How in the world would any company not be green with envy to have such a pioneer/leader at the helm. Shame on you Whole Foods for not supporting him. I am a huge contibutor to your stores-I shop every week at least 3 times a week at the Whole Foods at Park/Preston in Plano, TX. I have never seen such happy dedicated employees thanks to your CEO. They are well taken care of and it shows. It is a pleasant place to shop. I applaud Mr. Mackey's blog on Obamacare as Obamacare is going to destroy our country. Those in office right now are bent on destroying our free markets. Mr. Mackey had sound, logical ideas. You had better keep him or I will be big time mad. He is why your stores are so successful!!!!!! Get a clue!
12/28/2009 6:43:28 PM CST
Marilyn Morris says ...
I was proud and very pleased when John Mackey stood up to the single-minded inanities and idiocy of The Left in this Country. Now, I am only ashamed of Whole Foods and I will NO LONGER SHOP THERE, AND I WAS A GREAT CUSTOMER! Do you hear me--any of you on the Board reading this??? I, and many others I know, will no longer shop Whole Foods. You are just the usual bunch of lily-livered fools letting yourselves be pushed around and caving in to stupid political correctness and politics in general, shame on you. So long.
12/28/2009 6:44:58 PM CST
DP says ...
I am disturbed by your decision to step down. I supported your righto to express your views. You may spin it anyway you want, but I see your resignation as succumbing to the pressure exerted by liberals - those that support the first amendment, only so lnog as the expressed views resonate with theirs. Apparently, such views now resonate with those of Whole Foods. Accordingly, we will no longer be shopping at Whole Foods. We do have a choice and we have made ours.
12/28/2009 6:50:11 PM CST
Bruce &amp; Judy Kellams says ...
We are extremely disappointed with the decision to step down because of the pressure of a small focus group who allows no opinions or beliefs that they do not agree with. Whole foods has just lost our business and hopefully, all our friend's business.
12/28/2009 6:57:38 PM CST
Jeanne Burke says ...
Your WSJ article on health care reform was brilliant and insightful. After reading that article, I made a decision to support Whole Foods and shop there more often. Your resignation signifies to me that the left wing radicals have succeeded in silencing any free speech that they are not in agreement with. I will voice my own opinion to the resignation of John Mackey by no longer shopping in Whole Foods.
12/28/2009 7:07:05 PM CST
Hal W McCoy says ...
I can't remember when I have been so upset. The idea that a great Chairman can be forced out of office because he published his opinion that free market solutions are better than government run solutions is just terrible. Every citizen who loves freedom should be mad as hell.
12/28/2009 7:48:15 PM CST
JA says ...
I was inspired and motiviated to shop at Whole Foods more often after I saw you, John Mackey, have the courage speak out and attempt to create some logical, reasonable solutions to an extremely complex societal and political issue. You had to know this was a polital football, and you didn't have to take this on, for that I admire you. Now I'm afraid the only voice I have is to choose not to shop at Whole Foods in order to support the idea of your free and reasonable speech. I do not do this without the pain of knowing that this will hurt the many good employees still at Whole Foods and for that I am sorry. How irononic that we are going through this period of "McCarthyism" - except that today the big accusation is not that you might be a communist -- that seems to be quite acceptable - you'd just better not stand up for any ideas that don't parrot the PC liberal Democratic party-line (I say this as a registered Democrat). Also one had better beware of standing up for free speech, personal responsibility, capitalism, democracy or the free market. I'm of very modest income and unlikely to attain any sort of financial security in my lifetime - that said, I'd rather have a free market and free speech, than any government handout - which inevitably invites control, corruption and market interference (whether it be from a liberal or conservative govt.) I'll place my bet with a good business man/woman ANY day over any current day politician or bureaucrat. Thanks for trying John.
12/28/2009 8:37:00 PM CST
Susan Mehiel says ...
I was sorry to hear that you are stepping down. I have been driving an hour to the WF store in Greenville, SC to shop since I read your WSJ articles. I'll save the gas from now on - Fresh Market is just around the corner. Keep up your great work and keep us posted!
12/28/2009 10:00:55 PM CST
Lois Klatt says ...
I am sorry that the Board does not believe in free speech and as such stand up for anyone to have that right. That is real liberalism isn't it? I go out of my way to shop at wholefoods in the kansas city area but a narrow minded organization trying to squelch my rights or anyone else's does not deserve my business.
12/28/2009 10:10:42 PM CST
Josh G. says ...
Mr. Mackey, have you every thought of running for president?
12/28/2009 10:16:09 PM CST
Anne Retzler says ...
The John Mackey comments re the proposed health care bill were right on target. I respect John for making those comments. It appears that these comments gave the Board an excuse to remove him as Chairman of the Board. Shame on the Board and any major stockholders that influenced the removal of John as Chairman of the Board. AR 12/28/09
12/28/2009 10:21:42 PM CST
Grant says ...
John, Saddened by your announcement. WH has flourished under your leadership. You are however conducting yourself like a gentleman, contrary to your critics who assert damage to the brand, your above post shows where your heart is. You're to be commended. I have to ask though why it is that it's only the radical left that demands tolerance to their views, while offering none to their detractors? Your crime was that you spoke your mind about a relevant corporate issue. It's become recently apparent that free speech is dead unless the Left likes it. To see that applied to an executive discoursing on a corporately relevant political issue is beyond disturbing. Time to stand up America for what we're founded on. God bless you John.
12/28/2009 10:53:01 PM CST
Sheila Towers says ...
John, I will no longer purchase any products from your stores, and I hope that each American that learns about this will do the same. It is a sad state of affairs when one's opinions endanger one's job, be it Chairman of the Board or any other job however menial, and totally anti-American! CtW and the likes are slowly turning this country from a republican democracy to a fascist state.
12/29/2009 5:03:43 AM CST

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