Whole Foods’ CEO opens mouth, inserts foot

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, recently wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about health care reform. (He’s against it, and thinks the solution is to buy the sort of healthier food sold by his store.) Retail Wire panelists were invited to weigh in on the question of whether this should cost Mr. Mackey his job. My opinion:

I don’t think John Mackey should resign as CEO of Whole Foods because I believe he has the right to express his opinion in print, even though I disagree with him. I also believe that shareholders ought to be focused on Whole Foods’ recent performance (not bad) and share price (close to its 52-week high) in determining whether its CEO keeps his job or not.

All that aside, there is clearly an issue when the CEO of a public company spouts off and behaves as if he is still running a private concern, without accountability to his board and shareholders. Mr. Mackey also has a responsibility to keep his mouth shut when he risks alienating his core customer with his political views. I have staunchly defended the Whole Foods acquisition of Wild Oats on Retail Wire, and I do believe it’s a well-run company…but Mr. Mackey may want to lower his profile in the future and stick to running his business.

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