Was Whole Foods Choking On Their -5% Net?
| David Hoopes |
I’ve used a couple of Ben and Jerry’s cases over the years. One of the interesting things about B&J is that they seem to suffocate under their desire to “do good.” In general, it seems they would have been able to donate a good deal more to charity if they had run their business to be a good business. Then, Ben and Jerry could have taken their salaries or capital gains or dividends and given them to their favorite charities.
Whole Foods, like B&J had a concentrated ownership for quite a while. I don’t know what it’s like now. For a long time John Mackey and his Dad owned 51%. John did not take a large salary. So, giving away Whole Foods’ profits was like he was spending his own money anyway. And, anyone involved with WFM after John got rid of his co-founders knew WFM was John’s thing.
The point with WFM is that it’s an unusual example of corporate charity in part because of concentrated ownership, the marketing benefits of donating money, and the political inclinations of many if not most of its employees (far more left-wing than J. Mackey). Unlike B&J, WFM did not suffocate itself by not paying professional executives. Also, Mackey never felt guilty about turning a profit and is a tried and true capitalist (guilt free).
I worked for Whole Foods when they only had two stores in Austin (oh so long ago). I’m afraid John considered me a pest (I suppose I was).
Did they ever buy Wild Oats? That’s another story.