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Whole Foods CEO Says Amazon Connection Was 'Love at First Sight'

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 6/19/2017 Nick Turner and Craig Giammona

(Bloomberg) -- Whole Foods Market Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Mackey, who agreed to sell the company to Amazon.com Inc. last week, said he was first set up with the e-commerce giant on a “blind date” about six weeks ago and fell in love after conversing for hours.

The deal was set in motion when Mackey and fellow executives Jason Buechel, Ken Meyer and David Lannon flew up to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, according to a transcript of a town-hall meeting held Friday with employees. Mackey was assured that Whole Foods’ quality standards wouldn’t be compromised, he said.

Whole Foods’ 63-year-old CEO, who has raised eyebrows in the past for his shoot-from-the-hip style, compared his new relationship to a romance. The remarks shed new light on a deal that was presented Friday with a relatively terse, 5-paragraph statement.

“Mutual friends set us up on a blind date,” he said in the transcript, which was released by Whole Foods on Monday. “It was truly love at first sight.”

Amazon, which agreed to pay $13.7 billion for the organic-food chain on Friday, will let Mackey continue to run Whole Foods. The deal followed a scrape with activist investor Jana Partners, which had threatened to shake up the board and overhaul the company.

Amazon, meanwhile, isn’t “stupid enough” to change Whole Foods’ brand, Mackey said at the town hall.

“This is not a Tinder relationship,” said Mackey, referring to the online-dating service.

At the meet-up in Seattle, the executives spoke with Amazon for 2 1/2 hours, he said.

“We could have talked for 10 hours,” he said. “We just had these big grins on our faces, like, ‘These guys are amazing.’”

To contact the reporters on this story: Nick Turner in New York at nturner7@bloomberg.net, Craig Giammona in New York at cgiammona@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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