Anorak News | Vegan Foot In Mouth Disease: John Mackey’s Wholefoods Blog

Vegan Foot In Mouth Disease: John Mackey’s Wholefoods Blog

by | 12th, July 2007

john_mackey_fruit.jpgONE of blogging’s biggest assets is its transparency. So it has come as a bit of a shock that one of the blogosphere’s best known CEO bloggers has been outed as less than honest.

John Mackey, the 53-year-old vegan founder of Wholefoods is well known for his unconventional and outspoken management style. He is one of only a few high-profile CEO’s, like Sun Microsystem’s Jonathan Schwartz and Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban, who maintains a blog.

But the Wall Street Journal has revealed that Mackey spent seven years posting over 1,000 comments about his own company and its rivals on Yahoo Finance’s messageboards under the pseudonym Rahodeb, an anagram of his wife Deborah’s name.

“Rahodeb cheered Whole Foods’ financial results, trumpeted his gains on the stock and bashed [rival] Wild Oats,” the Journal revealed. “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!’ ”
In January 2005, Mackey rubbished rival Wild Oats Market Inc on a Yahoo stock-market forum saying no company would want to buy the firm. Two years later, Whole Foods bought the company for $565 million.

But the takeover came at an additional cost. The Federal Trade Commission launched a lawsuit seeking to block the move on antitrust grounds. And an eagle-eyed Journal reporter spotted a footnote in the filing that said “Mr. Mackey often posted to Internet sites pseudonymously, often using the name Rahodeb.”

Mackey’s excuse? “I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it. Many people post on bulletin boards using pseudonyms…I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.”

Mackey added: “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.”

Which would be fine, if you aren’t the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company posting anonymous comments about your firm and its competitors.

Harvey Pitt, a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, told the Journal: “It’s clear that he is trying to influence people’s views and the stock price, and if anything is inaccurate or selectively disclosed he would indeed be violating the law…at a minimum, it’s bizarre and ill-advised, even if it isn’t illegal.”

Meanwhile, posters on Yahoo’s message boards are having plenty of fun.

“In light of this news, perhaps the name of the company should be changed to Whole Foods Bazaar,” JimTarHeel wrote. “What a hoot! It’s so Nixonion! Maybe he needs some animal fat in his diet. I’ve known vegans who suffered from teeth and gum disease; now we know a vegan who’s suffering from ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease.”

Posted: 12th, July 2007 | In: Reviews Comments (2) | TrackBack | Permalink