Blog: Dean BestWhole Foods opening up

Dean Best | 18 June 2007

When competition watchdogs around the world step in to block or hold up potential mergers and acquisitions, often the companies in question go to ground.

Getting information from the parties concerned is a difficult job; companies are anxious that anything they say publicly may prejudice the negotiations going on behind the scenes – and whether or not a deal gets the green light.

Whole Foods Market, however, has taken the unusual step of stating its intention to go public with information on its battle to buy fellow US retailer Wild Oats.

Whole Foods has something of a fight on its hands over its plans to merge with Wild Oats. The US Federal Trade Commission has moved to block the deal on competition grounds, arguing that the combination would narrow competition in the natural and organic channels. Whole Foods and Wild Oats have vowed to fight the move and a US court will rule on the FTC’s request next month.

Whole Foods has upped the ante by launching a new section on its website, in which it promises to give its “stakeholders” information on its side of the battle with the FTC. Both Whole Foods and Wild Oats insist that a merger between the two companies would pose no threat to competition, pointing to moves from mainstream retailers like Wal-Mart, which have boosted their organic ranges.

It’s an interesting move from Whole Foods, especially from a company normally reticent in opening its corporate doors to the world. Whole Foods, for instance, openly states that it does not offer interviews with the trade press on competitive grounds.

However, maybe Whole Foods, after having made such a splash here in the UK with its recent store opening, is starting to believe in the benefits of greater openness and public exposure.


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