FTC Appeals, Still Trying To Stop Whole Foods/Wild Oats Merger

A judge has ruled in favor of the Whole Foods/Wild Oats merger, but the FTC has announced they will appeal the decision and are asking that the merger be blocked pending that appeal.

From USAToday:

Clifford Aronson, an attorney for Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats, read Friedman’s decision and said the judge rejected the government’s argument that the two chains competed mostly with each other, rather than conventional supermarkets, and could raise prices if they combined.

Aronson also said that Friedman made no mention of one notorious aspect of the case: Whole Foods chief executive John Mackey was revealed to have trashed Wild Oats and touted Whole Foods on Internet message boards under a pseudonym. Federal securities regulators are looking into the postings.

The Whole Foods decision is the latest in a series of losses for the federal government on antitrust cases.

Good news for Whole Foods CEO John “Anonymous Troll” Mackey, but is it good news for consumers? We find it hard to imagine a world where Whole Foods is more expensive than it already is. If Whole Foods gets any pricier, it’s going to turn into one of those stores that has a doorbell.

FTC appeals ruling allowing Whole Foods to buy Wild Oats [USAToday]
(Photo:Adam Lawrence)

PREVIOUSLY: Whole Foods CEO Caught Bashing Wild Oats Stock On Yahoo Forums
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FTC: Wild Oats Whole Foods Buyout Bad For Consumers

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  1. AlphaWolf says:

    Is this a distraction by the FTC? I mean it seems that every merger under the sun for media companies or banks is green lighted, still in the health food arena where there is competition from all directions suddenly it is an issue?

  2. Squeezer99 says:

    Don’t need them to merge. if they did, then you’d have “Big Organic”

  3. EvilSquirrel says:

    At least I can still go to Trader Joe’s for high quality products at dirt cheap prices. Long live Two Buck Chuck.

    Seriously though, I am tired of getting burned by grocery stores that are supposed to make things CHEAPER with their ability to buy in volume and lack of attention to customer service. There are plenty of specialty stores like your local fruit market, butcher, and bakery. These people will give you better service and better products for about the same price Whole Foods is trying to extort out of you.

  4. Keter says:

    I live near Austin, and Whole Foods has lost my business entirely thanks to too-high prices and seriously declining quality (even overpriced meat should not go bad overnight in the refrigerator). The juvenile behavior of its CEO was just icing on that cake…

    The Wild Oats affiliate (branded “Sun Harvest”) is the only other natural grocer within reasonable driving distance, and just before the hoo-hah about the merger came out, suddenly their quality dropped to the point of being suicidal, such as ceasing to stock most standard organic products, replacing them with shockingly vile stuff (like a “zero calorie” salad dressing that, when the label was read, turned out to be made of titanium dioxide!!!). Now that the merger is in question, they are madly restocking with real food…

    On the brighter side, there are alternatives developing, such as Target’s organic line, which has some good stuff (but read the labels!). My neighborhood Super S Foods has a surprisingly good selection of organic products, a good quality and reasonably priced meat department, and a manager who is paying attention. And last year a local organic farm started setting up a roadside produce stand on Saturdays.

    If the merger goes through, I won’t shop at either, and the biggest problem for me will be acquiring supplements, which are hard to find elsewhere…I guess the Internet will provide. But getting good eggs will remain a problem unless my Super S changes brands or I find a source of farm eggs…

    Amazing that in the so-called land of plenty we have to over-spend, scrounge, and scrutinize to find food that won’t kill us.

  5. mconfoy says:

    @AlphaWolf: Indeed, the FTC is wasting tax payer money on this. But then its the FCC and DOJ that deals, or don’t deal, with the media mergers. Guess the FTC has gotten bored.

  6. ogman says:

    ALPHAWOLF – There is a lot of speculation that this is nothing more than a political hatchet job. Rumor has it that the Bush administration is ticked off at the CEO of Whole Foods. Silly little rich boy games! It only sucks when their playtime has an effect on the rest of us, which happens all to often.

  7. andrewsmash says:

    There is a mall here in Oregon that has a giant Wild Oats a block away from a giant Whole Foods (the Wild Oats was there first). Every time I think of the merger, I think of those two stores, being in constant competition with each other. Now, tell me again, what benefit would eliminating that competition bring? It would leave at least one store’s worth of employees without jobs, there would be no incentive to offer lower prices or better service, and it would leave a giant building just sitting there empty. I see no positives here (of course, I don’t stock in Whole Foods, so I guess I don’t understand the “real” economics involved.)

  8. AbstractConcept says:

    call me a capitalist, but I say hooray to any green company having more power.. .

    Who knows maybe it will spawn more competition due to better name recognition and higher customer interest in organic and healthy products. Stop N Shop and other stores all have a healthy isle now, and organic food is becoming more and more common.

    I just hope it doesn’t skyrocket their prices.

  9. Clobberella says:

    @andrewsmash: Bridgeport Village, right? I was wondering about that one too. It does seem rather healthy for them to be in such direct competition with each other, and I must say I’d be very sad to see the Wild Oats go. I don’t like Whole Foods, so I’d really never have a reason to go to that mall unless I had a sudden urge to spend a bunch of money at the Container Store or to go buy some yuppie clothes. If the merger goes through, I suppose I’ll be doing all my cheese shopping at New Seasons instead.

  10. jnkdaniel says:

    FTC is totally inconsistent.

    They let oil companies merge, ATT merge. Yet, minuscule companies such as whole food and wild oats get this extreme scrutiny.

    are they worried Whole foods and Wild oats is going to put Walmart out of business?

  11. pestie says:

    As I’ve never seen either of these stores anywhere, I find it hard to believe that a merger would constitute a monoopoly. I think there may be a Whole Foods near where I used to live 4 years ago, but still, I’m not buying the “monopoly” argument here. My local Publix supermarket is getting more and more into the organic/natural market. If Whole Foods/Wild Oats jacks their prices too high, conventional grocery stores are in a perfect position to compete with them. If people still feel the need to overpay for the experience, well, let ‘em.

  12. pestie says:

    Why did I only see that I typed “monoopoly” a split second after I hit “submit comment?” Dammit.