Time for John Mackey to Resign
by George Anderson
the headline got your attention. Yes, we believe Whole Foods’ CEO John
Mackey should resign but not as you might surmise because of any particular
ideas he expressed in a recent op/ed piece on healthcare reform in The
Wall Street Journal.
Mackey should resign because, purely and simply, he has become a liability
for Whole Foods. An email from his own company acknowledges Mr. Mackey’s
most recent misstep.
you are aware, John Mackey wrote an op/ed piece that was published
in The Wall
Street Journal earlier
this week on health care reform, one of the biggest and most emotional
issues facing our country. John’s intent was to express his personal
opinions — not those of Whole Food Market team members or our company
as a whole. Still, it’s very clear that John’s piece offended some
of our customers, other members of the communities we serve and some
of our team members as well.”
Mackey’s op/ed piece is symptomatic of real deficiencies in his leadership.
While these might be able to be tolerated in good times, these are not
good times for the natural and organic food chain.
- He is disconnected from
a core consumer group of Whole Foods. Mr. Mackey doesn’t seem to understand
that a large number of Whole Foods’ shoppers are politically liberal.
Their shopping at Whole Foods has always been, to them at least, an
outward sign of that liberalism and their personal philosophies about
health, the environment, fair trade, etc. (From a strictly communications
standpoint to this audience, who thought a lead with Margaret Thatcher
was a good idea? Weren’t there any quotes from stump speeches Ronald
Reagan gave against Medicare for the AMA back in the early sixties?)
- Staying with Whole Foods’
shoppers, Mr. Mackey forgot consumers have many options other than
Whole Foods. Today, people can be “conscious consumers” at Trader Joe’s,
mainstream supermarkets and many other stores that sell organic and
- Whole Foods’ “apology” points
out that Mr. Mackey doesn’t get the people who are working for his
company. Back in 2002, while doing some quiet research of Trader Joe’s
as a crew member, we found Whole Foods’ associates were some of its
most likely recruits. To a person they came to TJ’s saying they wanted
to work for a company that didn’t say one thing publicly and do another
in practice. Perhaps this is a small indication of what they were talking
about back then.
- Mr. Mackey doesn’t know
how to stop talking, blogging or otherwise communicating with the outside
world. Having gone through the whole “Rahodeb” business that involved
a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation
into anonymous posts he made on a Yahoo Finance board, you’d have thought
that someone on the Whole Foods board would have suggested a bit more
caution on his part going forward. If they did, it didn’t work.
Finally, John Mackey has to go
because his op/ed piece is costing Whole Foods brand equity (and likely
dollars and cents as well) at a time when it can’t afford to be giving any
away. For many people, Mr. Mackey, like Steve Jobs at Apple or Jim Sinegal
at Costco, is Whole Foods. The company and Mr. Mackey’s claims that the opinions
expressed in the Journal were
his own and not the company are falling on a lot of deaf ears. When your shoppers
stop listening to you, it’s time to bring in someone they will listen to.
Questions: Do you think John Mackey should resign as CEO of Whole Foods?
How would you evaluate the company’s crisis management response to the
uproar caused by Mr. Mackey’s op/ed piece?
- The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
John Mackey’s Blog – Whole Foods Market