As the cofounder and CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey had spent the better portion of his life rapidly growing the company from a niche natural grocery store in Austin, Texas, into the premier natural-foods grocer in the United States. Highly regarded as industry leader, Whole Foods contributed to the explosion in health-conscious eating sweeping the country.
But not all good things lasted forever. Whole Foods had been treading increasingly choppy waters since early 2014. Increased competition in the natural-grocery space and broader macroeconomic factors wore on earnings and contributed to lackluster stock returns. Investors were becoming increasingly frustrated with company's leadership team. By the end of April 2017, Whole Foods had received a number of inquiries from both strategic and financial buyers. A full-blown sale process was launched, and though tech giant Amazon entered the bidding war late, its offer was fast and decisive, not giving Whole Foods much time to contemplate or find a competing bid.
Now Mackey faces a decision that will not only shape the fate of his company, but the broader direction of the grocery industry for years or even decades to come.