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Can you tell I'm still bitter about Bob Irsay? Oof ...
Tonight, we were at a talk given by John Mackey, the co-founder and current CEO of Whole Foods. He is out promoting a new book called "Conscious Capitalism." Written with a business school prof and consultant, the book makes a case made in many other books and by many other people. To Mackey's and his coauthors' credit, they acknowledge this directly, citing companies like Trader Joes and Starbucks as food companies "with a conscious" along with examples from other sectors like Container Store. Mackey is a complicated figure in the food world. Clearly he deserves some admiration and credit for the huge positive change he brought to food retailing. Real food. Local producers. Healthy eating. Transparency in sourcing including their current, substantive scale being used in stores to rate seafood for sustainability in a clear way. And, building a large, successful company for which profit and share price were far from the only goals (but still one of them.) On the other hand, Mackey has been very controversial and even hypocritical given some of what Whole Foods under his watch has done with its own employees (i.e., their stance on unions, charging employees with higher body mass index more for their health insurance), with the capital markets (Mackey once infamously and inappropriately posted under an alias on Yahoo finance boards as his company was working to acquire the Wild Oats chain), and even with animal rights, labeling and environmental concerns. Tonight, Mackey bristled at questions around his more controversial political pronouncements (e.g., likening the Affordable Care Act to fascism; a statement for which he later apologized), wanting to talk only about the book. He proudly explained how he has taken no salary or stock options from WF since 2006 (though of course not mentioning he became wealthy before then with estimated net worth now in the hundreds of millions). Dean used to be a senior exec with Whole Foods. He undoubtedly will have some interesting views on Mackey. As with so many, Mr. Mackey is not a black and white case. But I am glad Whole Foods exists. Have only just started the book so no view on that yet. Think it's on prominent display in all local stores but, if interested to get a copy, you can't do better than buying it at the link above. Mackey himself, an avowed Libertarian, might even approve of that move.