Friday, July 13, 2007

Whole Foods, Wholly Effed-Up

John P. Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods Market, has been my hero. He's a vegan (and doesn't look like a prison camp survivor). He's instituted open book management, a style of management in which leaders give employees all relevant financial information and the training they need to understand it. They're also give their employees responsibility for the numbers they contribute to as well as a stake in how the company performs. At Whole Foods, they took this so far that every one of their 6,500+ employees were considered insiders by the SEC.

Sounds good so far.

Mackay, acknowledging that his company wasn't performing quite up to snuff, even paid himself only a buck in direct compensation. Very different.

But he had this little "hobby" that was a tad problematic. Seems, in his spare time, he was chiming in on Yahoo Finance’s bulletin board under the nom de plume of Rahodeb, a variant of his wife's name (ever the loving hubby). In his posts, over 1,000 which spanned over seven-years, he championed his company’s stock and, for spice, poked at competitor, Wild Oats Markets with his pixel stick (sometimes poking at Whole Foods as well). Not long fooled, other posters on the site would comment to his posts -- "John, er I mean Rahodeb..." Choice.

Problem was: Whole Foods found itself in the process of attempting to purchase said Wild Oats. Oh, and the F.T.C. found out...and the Wall Street Journal...and us.

Ew, mercy!