Whole Foods Market, the US organics retailer, will sell 13 stores as part of an agreement with the country’s regulators to settle their dispute over the company’s 2007 takeover of rival Wild Oats Markets.

The deal, announced today (6 March), looks set to resolve the drawn-out battle over the future of Wild Oats.

The Federal Trade Commission had argued that the deal was anti-competitive. Whole Foods, which had already rebranded some of the Wild Oats stores after the US$565m acquisition, had insisted it competed head on with mainstream grocery chains that sell better-for-you products.

The acquisition had gone through in 2007 but last July a US appeals court reversed the ruling that had cleared the deal – and gave the FTC a fresh attempt to unravel the takeover.

The two sides agreed to a pause in their dispute in January to pursue a settlement, an agreement that was outlined today.

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Under the terms of the deal, a third-party trustee has been appointed to oversee the sale of 12 Wild Oats stores and one Whole Foods outlet.

The trustee will also monitor the sale of the leases and related assets of 19 non-operating former Wild Oats stores, ten of which were closed prior to the company;s sale to Whole Foods – and nine of which were closed after the deal.

The trustee will also oversee the sale of Wild Oats trademarks and other intellectual property associated with the retailer’s stores.

“We are pleased to have reached a mutually-satisfactory agreement with the FTC.  We believe it was in the best interests of all our stakeholders to resolve this matter so we can dedicate our full attention to selling the highest quality foods available in our inviting store environments,” said Whole Foods chairman and CEO John Mackey.

The retailer said it would incur a non-cash charge of around U$19m relating to the potential sale of the stores.

The FTC is expected to give final approval to the agreement by the end of April, Whole Foods added.