Whole Foods CEO Caught Bashing Wild Oats Stock On Yahoo Forums

Back in 2005, when the (currently being opposed by the FTC) Whole Foods/Wild Oats merger was just a glint in the Whole Foods CEO’s eye… John “Anonymous Troll” Mackey was on Yahoo! forums bashing Wild Oats stock.

Stock that he wanted to buy. From Smart Money:

In January 2005, someone using the name “Rahodeb” went online to a Yahoo stock-market forum and posted this opinion: No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share.

“Would Whole Foods buy OATS?” Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats’ stock symbol. “Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small.” Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock fell below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats management “clearly doesn’t know what it is doing. . . . OATS has no value and no future.”

The comments were typical of banter on Internet message boards for stocks, but the writer’s identity was anything but. Rahodeb was an online pseudonym of John Mackey, co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market Inc. Earlier this year, his company agreed to buy Wild Oats for $565 million, or $18.50 a share.

For about eight years until last August, the company confirms, Mr. Mackey posted numerous messages on Yahoo Finance stock forums as Rahodeb. It’s an anagram of Deborah, Mr. Mackey’s wife’s name. Rahodeb cheered Whole Foods’ financial results, trumpeted his gains on the stock and bashed Wild Oats. Rahodeb even defended Mr. Mackey’s haircut when another user poked fun at a photo in the annual report. “I like Mackey’s haircut,” Rahodeb said. “I think he looks cute!”

Mr. Mackey’s online alter ego came to light in a document made public late Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission in its lawsuit seeking to block the Wild Oats takeover on antitrust grounds. Submitted under seal when the suit was filed in June, the filing included a quotation from the Yahoo site. An FTC footnote said, “As here, Mr. Mackey often posted to Internet sites pseudonymously, often using the name Rahodeb.”

Mr.Mackey defends the postings on Whole Foods’ website,

“I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it. Many people post on bulletin boards using pseudonyms.” He said that “I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.”

Mr. Mackey’s post continued: “The views articulated by rahodeb sometimes represent what I actually believed and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes I simply played ‘devil’s advocate’ for the sheer fun of arguing. Anyone who knows me realizes that I frequently do this in person, too.”

The FTC is currently challenging the Whole Foods/ Wild Oats merger, claiming that it is anti-competitive and bad for consumers.

Whole Foods CEO Hid on Message Board [Smart Money] (Thanks, everyone!)

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