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!)

PREVIOUSLY: Whole Foods Will Consume Wild Oats
FTC: Wild Oats Whole Foods Buyout Bad For Consumers


Edit Your Comment

  1. ediebeale says:

    Amazing. Was he posting as a woman/gay man? It would explain the “haircut looks cute!” comment. And also, a lot of things about his scary inner life.

  2. mantari says:

    Seems almost typical for a Yahoo! Finance message board. You’ve got your usual crowd who is totally bashing the stock, and you’ve got your few who are constantly pumping it up. All of them are broken records, so you can expect little in the way of critical analysis.

    To semi-quote one such Yahoo! Finance poster:
    Goldman Sachs has rated this stock a strong smell!!!

  3. zentec says:

    When does the video “CEOs Behaving Badly” staring Michael J. Fox arrive on Netflix?

    It doesn’t matter if it was fun or not, there’s certain ethical rules that CEOs have to play by if they head a public company. It’s refreshing however, that this is something entirely different rather than the drab old insider trading or having sex with someone else’s wife.

  4. rmz says:


  5. justinph says:

    Isn’t this something the SEC should be investigating?

  6. iMike says:

    He doesn’t have any better place to pump his stock than on Yahoo Finance, which has one of the worst signal:noise ratios on teh intarweb?

    What a douche.

    PS. OATS-WFMI probably ain’t gonna happen. Which means that OATS will probably die.

  7. bohemian says:

    Is Wild Oats that bad or just not keeping up with Whole Foods?

    I saw a Wild Oats when I was on vacation. Would love to get one where I live, and a Trader Joes.

  8. CreativeLinks says:

    Really, that’s his Marketing Strategy for increasing share revenue?

    Lurking and trolling?


  9. bedohar says:

    I think he’s charming and witty. And that picture is cute.

  10. QuirkyRachel says:

    I think technically what he did isn’t illegal per se, but it sure is dicey.

  11. countertop says:

    The press keeps bringing out folks saying that no matter how unethical, and bizarre, this may have been it isn’t necessarily illegal.

    I simply can’t believe that. Here he was, actively trying to take over a company, and going to one of the most popular stock boards in the world during the heyday of day traders, and trying to drive the price down.

    That he failed (he said it wasn’t worth $5 a share, he ended up paying – or at least trying to – $18+ a share) is irrelevant. What he did seems pretty darn illegal to me.

    Interestingly, you haven’t really heard a peep out of the feds. Only Mackey’s damage control lackeys. I bet someone makes an example out of him.

  12. RebekahSue says:

    @bohemian: I hope you get a Trader Joe’s. I’ve never been to Wild Oats, but Whole Foods charges much more than TJ’s.

    I brought flowers for a friend in the hospital (and food for her fiance-now-husband) and wanted to stop at the closest store so the food & flowers wouldn’t be icky after the hour+ drive. Whole Foods charged for two STEMS what I’d pay for a full bouquet at TJ’s, and I got a few items for what a bag of food would have cost me at Trader Joe’s. Reminded me of the days when the only vegetarian food I could find (beyond produce) was at the health food store: $35/a bag of groceries.

    As for that Mackey guy, his wife, Deborah, must be mortified that her CEO husband has to hide behind her. His mother should be ashamed for raising a taunting bully. (I’ll treat him like a child until he acts like a responsible adult, ‘k?)

    I heard the story on the news a few hours ago. For some reason, I get happy when I read it first online – like my feeds are worth something, or like I’m actually learning something. or sometheing.

  13. royal72 says:

    who fucking cares… all business does this kinda shit. if anything he’s an idiot for not having a buffer to keep it from getting back to him.

  14. ZonzoMaster says:

    It’s just messed up, and i laugh at messed up =D.

  15. dbeahn says:

    @RebekahSue: Man, I SO miss Trader Joe’s


  16. CyGuy says:

    I think the question of legality is dependent on the timing and content of the individual posts. There are times when any company insider can’t say ANYTHING about their company in a public forum without ensuring that the information is officially released. Alternatively, if he released any insider information with the intent that anyone acted on it, then I think that too would be illegal.

    If instead he was merely (as he claims) repeating things in the public domain, and if this was done at times when he was not subject to a blackout – then I guess he would be free and clear in a legal sense. I would expect that unless he controls a majority of the WFMI stock he will be tossed out as CEO.

  17. balthisar says:

    What’s the bad for consumers angle? Isn’t it just groceries?

  18. roche says:

    for some reason this really makes me laugh. Instead of running his company this guy was more interested in trolling threads. You gotta love that.

    Oh wait, you actually work there or have stock in his company? Yeah, you dummies need to get rid of this douche.

  19. CaptainConsumer says:

    Long live the Yahoo Trolls!

    I was one…..

  20. ElizabethD says:

    The rumor in Our Little Towne here in the northeast is that Whole Foods is keeping a second, small, underperforming store in a highly desirable upscale area open solely to prevent Trader Joe’s from moving into it. (We don’t have a TJ’s yet.) Many local peeps are outraged!

  21. mattbrown says:

    more “my, That’s Professional.” more. mynah.

  22. levenhopper says:

    You know, there is this great thing in America called the First Admendment…

  23. rekoil says:

    Legal or not, I know that most public companies (including my employer) have a strict rule against posting to that company’s Yahoo or other stock boards for any reason. Usually it’s considered an NDA violation and grounds for immediate dismissal.

  24. Spamboy says:

    What a dumbass. I’m once again “proud” to be from Texas.

  25. AtOurGates says:

    Seriously, this guy’s a bit of a retard, but the FTC blocking the Wild Oats / Whole Foods merger is rediculous.

    Somehow ATT can buy back every telephone service provider in the country, but two high-end organic markets merging is anti-competitive? Will this merger suddenly cause every farmer’s market in the country? Honestly.

  26. CyGuy says:

    @AtOurGates: AT&T was BOUGHT by one the baby Bells, not the other way around.

  27. FS123 says:

    @AtOurGates: Yeah, it is a ludicrous merger for the FTC. Why is it so important to have multiple expensive organic stores, especially given all the other options; farmer’s markets, co-ops, etc.

    I hope TJ’s expands out east more. I loved them so when I lived in California.

  28. snowferret says:

    I don’t care what he sais, he couldn’t have been ignorant of the reprocusions of his actions. I hope they throw the book at him.