Whole Foods founder John Mackey will step down as CEO

Whole foods john mackey
Jason Buechel is slated to take the helm at Whole Foods. Dustin Finkelstein/Getty Images for SXSW
  • Whole Foods founder John Mackey is stepping down as the chain’s CEO.
  • Mackey co-founded Whole Foods in 1980 in Austin, Texas. Amazon bought the company in 2017.
  • Chief operating officer Jason Buechel will replace Mackey in September 2022.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey announced that he will soon step down as the company’s CEO. He will stay on until September 2022, at which point Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel will take on the role of chief executive.

In a letter sent out to Whole Foods employees, Mackey wrote that he “thought long and hard” about the decision.

“Honestly, it’s very hard to retire from a company that I have helped to create, nourish and grow for 44 years when I leave.” Mackey wrote. “As a co-founder of Whole Foods, I’ve often explained my relationship to the company with a parent-child metaphor. As a parent, I have always loved Whole Foods with all my heart.”

“All parents reach a time when they must let go and trust that the values imparted will live on within their children. That time has nearly come for me and for Whole Foods,” Mackey added.

Mackey co-founded Whole Foods Market in 1980 in Austin, Texas. Whole Foods expanded throughout the United States, often through acquiring other local and regional chains. The chain championed organic foods and products free of preservatives and artificial flavors and coloring. In 2017, Amazon acquired the popular grocery chain for $US13.7 ($AU19) billion.

The outgoing CEO said he will continue to visit stores and meet with employees before his departure. Mackey wrote that he was proud of the company’s role in helping “tens of millions of people live healthier lives and it is not an exaggeration to say that Whole Foods has impacted very positively the way many people in America and around the world eat.”

Mackey wrote that he was “pleased” that Amazon executives agreed with his top choice for a successor. Buechel joined Whole Foods in 2013 and became chief operating officer in 2019.

“Not only is he extraordinarily intelligent with unusually high integrity, he is also a servant leader who lives and embodies Whole Foods Core Values and Leadership Principles and is fundamentally just a good and loving person,” Mackey wrote.

Mackey also included a message for Whole Foods employees in his farewell letter.

“Words cannot begin to express how deeply grateful I am for your partnership on this incredible journey and how much I love the company and all of you,” he wrote. “I may be retiring from Whole Foods a year from now, but so long as I am still alive, I will remain connected to Whole Foods and will do all that I possibly can to help us all continue to flourish.”