‘Love at first sight’: The bizarre story of how Amazon’s deal for Whole Foods went down

CEO of Amazon.com, Inc. Jeff Bezos. Photo: Getty Images.

Amazon shocked the world last week when it announced a $US13.7 billion deal to buy organic-grocer Whole Foods — a warning shot that officially put competing grocers on notice particularly in Australia, which is preparing for Amazon’s entry next year.

Woolworths, Wesfarmers and Metcash were sold down on Monday, the first day of trading on the ASX since the Whole Foods announcement.

While analysts say it’s unlikely Amazon would buy one of the major Australian supermarkets, they’re not ruling out the possibility it buying smaller chains.

“We certainly don’t think a bid for Woolworths or Coles would be likely,” Citi analyst Bryan Raymond told Fairfax Media on Tuesday. “It’s more likely to be a relatively small acquisition of a small network over time.”

In a town hall meeting the day the deal was announced, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey shed light on how the deal went down — and it’s unorthodox.

As Mackey tells it, it all started with a blind date six weeks ago, which was love at first sight.

Here’s Mackey, from the town hall transcript (emphasis ours):

So I just — putting it a little bit in narrative form — how did we meet? It was actually mutual friends set us up on a blind date. (LAUGHTER) And — Jason Buechel and Ken Meyer and David Lannon and I flew up to Seattle a little over six weeks ago. And — it — we just fell in love. It was truly love at first sight. (LAUGHTER)

I’m very serious. It’s like we came outta there. We talked for 2 1/2 hours. I think we coulda talked for 10 hours. And — when we huddled together, it was like we just had — we just had these big grins on our faces, like, “These guys are amazing.” They’re so smart. They’re so authentic. They say what’s on their mind. They’re not playin’ a bunch of BS games. And it was like, “This is gonna be so incredible.” ‘Cause we were talkin’ about the things we can do together, things that I cannot talk about today and won’t be able to talk about until this deal closes.

So — it’s been a whirlwind courtship. Because — little over six weeks after we met on this blind date, we’re — we’re f — officially engaged, (LAUGHTER) as of today. But like an old traditional marriage, where there are all kinds of rules and chaperones, we can’t consummate the marriage, (LAUGHTER) until we’re actually officially hooked up. This is not — this is not a Tinder relationship. (LAUGHTER) I got a feeling I’m off script.

A positively ebullient Mackey continues to gush about Amazon, raving about their innovation and how good the merger will be for Whole Foods.

Then, bizarrely, Mackey tells the town hall that he had foreseen the merger with Amazon in a dream a year and a half ago.

Take it away, Mackey (again, emphasis ours):

And I will tell you something. About a year and a half ago, I dreamed that we merged with Amazon. I woke up, and I told my wife about it. And she said, “That’s crazy.” (LAUGHTER) And I said, “I know. That’s really weird, isn’t it?”

And then of course, I didn’t think about it again, until it’s like — I remember telling Glenda, “Glenda, do you wanna know something weird? I had this dream (LAUGHTER) a year and a half ago.” And so now, today, it’s coming true. So dreams are powerful things.

Soon, there will be a collective dream. There’ll be a Whole Foods dream merging in with an Amazon dream. And together, these two companies are gonna do tremendous dreams together.

Later, an Amazon executive begins to tell the crowd that Mackey will stay on as CEO — and is interrupted by Mackey, who chimes in, “Until death do us part.”

There’s been a lot of chatter that rivals might emerge to try and outbid Amazon for Whole Foods. But based on Mackey’s stirring testimony, it would take an awful lot to make star-crossed lovers out of Amazon and Whole Foods.

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