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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




Allan says ...
Like Steve Jobs Leaving Apple, When the Vision that founded, built and ran a good company leaves, the company is never the same. We can only hope that in a short time the Board will come crawling back, begging for your return to the helm. The question is will be will you return or leave them to compost in their decisions?
12/31/2009 10:46:43 AM CST
Janice McPhee says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I am very sorry to hear you are stepping down from your position at Whole Foods. I really hope you have not been forced out because of your op-ed ad and your right to free speech. Furter, I would hate to think your were forced to say this because so many people have written that they will no longer shop there anymore. If I find out differently I will no longer shop there. I believe in the right of free speech. I would just like to say that you are very respected by the employees of Whole Foods where I shop in Greenville, SC. You have created a wonderful store atmosphere in the Whole Foods stores and for that you can be proud. I wish you all the best. Janice McPhee
12/30/2009 9:47:19 PM 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
L. Foerster says ...
Mr. Mackey, Thanks for your voice and keep your head up high...what a sad situation in America we have. Why don't you just start another company? If you do, Oklahoma really needs one! I am removing Whole Foods from my "friends" list...and won't be shopping there again. Best of luck to you. Again, thanks for your efforts and courage...Edmond, Oklahoma
12/29/2009 5:03:12 PM CST
paig292 says ...
Hi Everyone, Please re-read my posted blog above. Everything posted there is both accurate and true. Let me try to correct a few of the rumors and false statements being made here and in other places: 1. Was I forced to give up the Chairman's title? Absolutely not! Both the idea and the decision to give up the title were completely my own. As I mention above, both the Board and the Executive Team tried to talk me out of this decision. I was under zero pressure from anyone. I was not coerced. 2. Did the decision to give up the Chairman's title have anything to do with the op-ed article last summer in the Wall Street Journal? It isn't connected in the slightest way. Contrary to many people's beliefs I'm not being "punished" for writing the op-ed piece. 3. Why then did I give up the Chairman's title? For exactly the reasons I mention above. The Chairman of the Board position at Whole Foods Market has been without any real authority, power, or responsibility since January, 2001--almost 9 years ago. All the authority and responsibility usually vested in the Chairman of the Board position were transferred to the position of Lead Director many years ago. I kept the Chairman's title, primarily out of inertia, to avoid upsetting people, and probably a little bit of face saving on my part. At no time has anyone on the Board or in management ever asked me to give up the title. 4. Why give the title up now? That is simple: to avoid another proxy battle with shareholder activists over keeping a title without authority or responsibilities. Many people at Whole Foods believe we should just continue to fight the shareholder activists over this particular issue indefinitely, but it just doesn't make sense to me to continue to do so because of the wasted time and money this battle entails. The deadline for responding to the proxy was coming up and after talking the matter over with both the Board and my Executive Team I made the decision to give up the title. I had been thinking about giving up the title for the past few years so the decision was not a hasty one. 5. There is one other reason I decided to give up the Chairman's title that I didn't mention in the blog or in the 8-K: Dr. John Elstrott deserves to have the title. He has done a great job for Whole Foods as the Lead Director for the past 9 years and he hasn't received the public recognition that he has definitely earned. He has helped steer our Board through some rough waters over the past 9 years. Since he has the authority and responsibility of the traditional Chairman of the Board already, why shouldn't he also have the title? I think he should. My respect and trust in Dr. Elstrott's integrity and competence has grown with each passing year. Whole Foods is lucky to have him as our Chairman and I support him 100%.
12/29/2009 6:19:54 PM CST
Dianne says ...
Interestint the shareholder activists forced this decision. What happened to freedom of speech in this country. Well my freedon is no more shopping at Whole Foods.
12/30/2009 9:30:53 AM CST
Patrick Frankfort says ...
John, I don't see any reason to doubt that you're being honest about the way this decision was made, and it sounds like it was the wise thing to do. I just want to say thanks for speaking your mind and getting your views out there. You've caused a lot of people to rethink their opinions on health care as well as how a company can operate productively and ethically. That's definitely a good thing. As a grocer, its not your job to dictate to people exactly what they should eat, but your company excels at giving people healthy and ethical options, as well as a great deal of information on how to take care of themselves and each other. Thanks.
12/30/2009 11:27:34 AM CST
Nan says ...
Too bad you *aren't* stepping down as CEO...then maybe your wacky, unfair employee "benefits" would go, too. I can't say it any better than this person did.
02/01/2010 3:44:50 PM CST
Bruce & 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Steven says ...
Funny how most of you are going on about "liberal censorship" and the like. This is ironically, a quintessential example of the free market at work! Mr Mackey is free to speak his mind &amp; consequentially, consumers are free to speak theirs &amp; even boycott! He's clearly stepping down due to his increasing liability to Whole Foods stock value, again the free market at work. DUH!
01/14/2010 6:27:27 PM CST