Whole Foods' CEO called activist investor 'greedy bastards,' and then struck a deal that will lead to a huge payday for one

Days after it came to light that he had lambasted activist investors as “greedy bastards,” Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has struck a deal that will net one such investor a massive payday.

Amazon on Friday agreed to buy Whole Foods in a megadeal valued at $US13.7 billion, or $US42 a share.

Jana Partners, an activist hedge fund that has been a thorn in Mackey’s side, is the third-largest shareholder with a stake of just over 8%.

Its share of the company is worth $US1.1 billion at the deal price, about $US230 million more than a day ago.

Jana Partners, which manages more than $US5 billion in capital, upped its stake in Whole Foods in April and pushed the company to look into strategic options, including a sale. Mackey reshuffled the company’s board in May.

Earlier this week, Mackey called Jana Partners “greedy bastards” in an series of interviews with Texas Monthly. He also referred to them as “Ringwraiths,” which are villainous characters from the “Lord of the Rings” series.

“[T]hese guys just want to sell us, because they think they can make forty or fifty per cent in a short period of time,” Mackey told Texas Monthly’s Tom Foster. “They’re greedy bastards, and they’re putting a bunch of propaganda out there, trying to destroy my reputation and the reputation of Whole Foods, because it’s in their self-interest to do so.”

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