Whole Foods merger with Boulder’s Wild Oats a source of ‘grief’

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey says that he regrets his company’s merger with Boulder-based Wild Oats.

"If I could go back in time, we wouldn’t have done the Wild Oats acquisition," Mackey told Samuel Fromartz in an interview the food journalist posted on his blog, ChewsWise.com.

Last February, the Austin, Texas-based chain Whole Foods announced that it would acquire Wild Oats. The Federal Trade Commission tried to halt the merger, saying that Whole Foods was buying out its competition. But the merger prevailed.

"We spent tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, we’ve been investigated, it’s been highly disruptive," Mackey told Fromartz. "I didn’t realize it would cause so much grief. But if you’re saying has it been a good deal aside from that, well, it’s very early in the process. And we have to invest money before we get returns on it. We always say it takes about two years to integrate a company we acquire and with Oats we’re about 8 months into the process. I’d say we’re pretty happy so far but can’t say with an absolute certainty until the 24 months have passed. But morale is very high and we’ve seen a lot of good sales increases."

Mackey said that the notion that Whole Foods had quashed its competition "[boggled] his mind." He cited Trader Joe’s and Safeway’s Lifestyle stores, among other businesses, as examples to the contrary.

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