Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, outed last year for anonymously penning some 1,400 messages — most of which promoted Whole Foods (WFMI) and/or himself — on Yahoo Finance boards, is back on the Web. Mackey had taken an 11-month hiatus from posting on his company’s site while the SEC figured out whether he’d broken any laws. He’s in the clear now, and the incident doesn’t seem to have diminished his appetite for self-expression. His first effort: A mea culpa that’s long on the mea and short on the culpa.
Mackey’s whole post, published last week, is here. It’s a marvel of non-contrition, but it’s a beautiful Sunday, so if you don’t want to wade through all 2,037 words, we’ve pulled some highlights:
- I couldn’t help myself — it’s my nature: “My family life when I was growing up included having various discussions and debates at the dinner table about anything and everything people wanted to discuss…The main reason I began posting on Yahoo! was because I enjoy and learn from online community interactions. I also like to express my viewpoints and I like to argue and debate.”
- I needed to defend my company against evil-doers: “Most of my posts at Yahoo! were made in response to these defamatory attacks on Whole Foods Market.. Next to my wife, I love Whole Foods Market more than anything else in the entire world… Like any good parent, I wanted to defend my “child” when it was being maligned and attacked unfairly, and I often came to its defence, wielding my debating skills as best I could.”
- Not using my real name was no big deal, really: “An online screen name is a great “equaliser” between people… What matters is the quality of what is said—not who says it. I do not think that the virtue of transparency is particularly applicable or relevant…”
- I didn’t do anything that bad, and I didn’t do it often: “More than 95 per cent of my posts were made in response to other participants’ posts. I rarely originated posts myself. I made more than 1,400 posts on the Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats online community message boards on Yahoo! over an eight-year period. (Even though that sounds like a lot, it averages out to about 3 posts per week.)”
- I’m really not that sorry: “I don’t wish to apologise for being highly competitive because much of my drive and creativity come from this competitiveness… I don’t believe that I ever crossed the line of fair but vigorous debate in these postings.”
It goes on in that vein for quite some time, but Mackey promises that this is pretty much all he has to say about the topic. That’s not quite true: Immediately after posting his “I’m back!” memo, he reproduces his commencement address to the Bentley College class of 08. Guess what he talked about?
I have been particularly challenged over the past year.. I’ve seen an amazing number of negative articles written about me with remarkably inaccurate stories and outright lies being told. Perhaps the hardest thing of all was that I was unable to respond to any of these attacks as the Whole Foods Board imposed complete media and blog silence on me while their own Special Investigation and the SEC Investigation were taking place. I was not able to defend myself publicly in any way and therefore had no way to try to set the record straight.
Again, it goes on like that for a while — Mackey also mentions that he’s spent part of the last year doing a “a tremendous amount of personal growth work such as counseling, meditation, and integrated breath work.”
In any case, it’s unlikely that Mackey will be posting under his old alias of “Rahodeb” again. In fact, he hasn’t been on the WFMI message board since August 2006. But getting back in the blog saddle, at least, may not be a bad thing: WFMI is down 29% since he went offline last July.
Disclosure: Peter Kafka bought a steak from Whole Foods’ Union Square store on Friday, May 23rd. He found it to be both over-priced and delicious, and will likely do it again.