Whole Foods Market co-CEO John Mackey Joins Motley Fool Board of Directors

Alexandria, Va. (January 10, 2014) -- The Motley Fool announced today that Whole Foods Market co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey has joined the Company's Board of Directors.

Since co-founding Whole Foods Market in 1978, Mr. Mackey has led a revolution in how Americans shop for their food. He has shown a world-class ability to scale brands and businesses, growing Whole Foods into a top supermarket with more than 370 stores and 80,000 team members worldwide. Throughout his career, Mr. Mackey has also championed a more purpose-driven way of doing business that benefits multiple stakeholders. He is widely regarded as one of the founders of "Conscious Capitalism," and he co-authored Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business in 2012.

Motley Fool co-founder and CEO Tom Gardner commented, "Throughout our twenty-year history, we at the Fool have worked to disrupt the financial services industry. It's an industry that offers its customers a menu of unhealthy investment guidance. Who better to help us in our challenge than the man who disrupted the food industry and taught us to eat healthier."

Mr. Mackey is an avid student of business and investing, and embodies the famous Warren Buffett remark, "I am a better investor because I am a businessman and a better businessman because I am an investor." He has been recognized as Barron's "World's Best CEO," and Fortune's "Businessperson of the Year," among other accolades. Mr. Mackey's enthusiasm for business and learning will be a great benefit to The Motley Fool as the Company continues to grow.

For further information, comment and questions, please contact Matt Trogdon at mtrogdon@fool.com. You can also learn more about The Motley Fool's board of directors here

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 11:31 AM, Iainlux01 wrote:

    I am slightly nervous about this news. Whilst not making any insinuation as bias, the fact exists that any change in attitude by the MF to Whole Fool Market may be influenced by having its co-CEO on its advisory Board.

    WFM are down more than 9% this year, how will we know that the analysis made of this decline is not partial.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 11:33 AM, PLAYOFFS wrote:

    Conflict of interest as your recommend Whole Foods stock?

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 11:42 AM, Domeyrock wrote:

    you guys are absurd. WFM down 9% for the year and it's only January 10th!?!?!? Are you kidding me? WFM is up 735% in the LAST 5 YEARS!! How many other stocks you own had THAT kind of performance WITh dividends?!?!? Stop you're crying, seriously. Mackey is the Steve Jobs of the food industry. Are you living under a rock that you didn't notice??

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 1:25 PM, Yoshimaroko wrote:

    How did that "disruption" over the supposedly "organic" vegetables from China turn out, speaking of "eating healthier"? I'm not terribly impressed with this particular MF choice.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 1:36 PM, rickf101 wrote:

    I clicked on this expecting to see it was an early april fools joke . i agree with those that state it is a conflict of interest , and didn't john go online and post comments about other stores under a fake name in chat rooms a few years back. I subscribe to Motley Fool SA and RB, one primary reason is the Integrity they have shown over the years . I too and not terribly impressed with this MF choice.

    disclaimer . I do own stock in WFM because of MF's recommendations.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 1:58 PM, TMFSpiffyPop wrote:

    Welcome, John! --David

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 2:08 PM, bigbenjamins2 wrote:

    Wow, what a bummer that most of these comments are negative. I for one am excited that the Fool is bringing on board one of business' most intelligent and humanitarian thought leaders. Iron sharpens iron, and I can see the fit.

    As for the conflict of interest, I think that comes down to trust. I trust that the Fool and John Mackey have the integrity and intelligence to avoid undermining their hard earned reputations by using this as an opportunity to manipulate the stock market. Should the Motley Fool avoid establishing relationships with prominent business professionals so as to be able to maintain objectivity?

    Anyway, hurray!

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 2:15 PM, gr8twhtebuffalo wrote:

    @bigbenjamins

    I couldn't have said it better. If anyone finds this disturbing don't invest in the stock. There are many other stocks out there to invest in.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 3:00 PM, Rahodeb wrote:

    Dear Fellow Fools,

    I am excited to be joining the Motley Fool's Board because I love the company. I'm also a serious investor, and I admire and like both Tom and David Gardner. I think I will learn a lot, while having some fun, and I believe that I will also add value to this company.

    A conflict of interest? Frankly, I couldn't care less whether the Motley Fool recommends Whole Foods stock or not. It won't have any affect on our stock one way or another as the large institutions own virtually all of the outstanding shares of the company. If this is a big issue for people then I would be happy to see Whole Foods removed from all of the recommended portfolios. At this point, Whole Foods is about a 50 bagger since our IPO in 1992 and most of our growth still lies ahead of us as we are less than 1/3 of our projected store count in the USA.

    Yes, I posted on the Yahoo Bulletin Boards for 8 years using a screen name--rahodeb. Everyone else posted on these boards used screen names too. That is the way it is done. I'm proud of my posts on the board which I think were both thoughtful and provocative. I enjoyed posting on those Boards, which were fun and stimulating for me. I believe you can still read my posts if you want to at Yahoo. I have found it fascinating that so many people have judged me for posting on Yahoo without bothering to actually read what I wrote there. The media sensationalized a few postings out of context and that became the narrative. Many people seem eager to believe the very worst about people and I have certainly found that to be true about myself over the years. Here is my more detailed response regarding these postings on my Whole Foods Market blog:

    http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/john-mackeys-blog/back-....

    In any case, I am looking forward to helping the Motley Fool become a better company and to provide better quality, service, and value to all of its members. Fool On!

    John Mackey

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 3:04 PM, jvgfool wrote:

    Really? This guy is kind of controversial plus you have a conflict of interest. I'd expect better from TMF.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 3:54 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    I fully expect TMF Lomax to be more cautious and less gullible while doing more research into the WHOLE Whole Foods story, including its prices.....

    Whole Paycheck the Beamer driver's friend.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 4:07 PM, TMFMags wrote:

    Welcome, John!

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 4:17 PM, ashdownbob wrote:

    Welcome, John, to the world of Fools!

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 4:25 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Here's another welcome to John Mackey!

    Cheers,

    Alyce

    Long WFM, onward conscious capitalism

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:26 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    Fools, I delight in healthy skepticism. Certainly, there are potential conflicts of interest. But let us remember that The Motley Fool is a wide open community. Just like this conversation, there is always a forum to consider all angles. You aren't going to find that anywhere else at scale in finance (investment banks, etc).

    The reality is that every interaction we have with every company presents a conflict of interest. We have partnerships with Microsoft, Yahoo, America Online, TD Ameritrade, LinkedIn, and most of the major newspapers in the country. We have board directors with ties to General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Sara Lee, and the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

    Of course, we are influenced by the people that we meet. When I sit down to interview the CEO of Tanger Factory Outlets or The Container Store, Costco, Chipotle, etc -- they all have the power to influence me. CEOs are often extremely persuasive.

    Our Fool members pay us to give them the best available long-term investment advice, perpetually. We've been at this for nearly 21 years. During that time, I sold Whole Foods stock twice in Stock Advisor (what a disaster -- although it looked smart in the 2008 meltdown). John is a great entrepreneur. He's the co-creator of a fascinating philosophy called Conscious Capitalism (that I highly recommend). And he's become a great friend. He knows full well that I will recommend the sale of Whole Foods stock whenever I think it in the best interests of members. Since the company came public in 1992, it hasn't been a good idea to sell -- which doesn't mean that will always be the case.

    We are not going to compromise our diehard service to our members and the dedication of our entire professional lifetimes because of our professional network. There's an excellent reverse example. Four years ago, one of our venture capitalists filed suit in attempt to force The Motley Fool to go public. That was a difficult time. That VC had as a principal investor, Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks. Yet, of course, we maintained our recommendations of and investments in Starbucks right through it. What a phenomenal company. Our Purpose is to help the world invest -- better.

    What Whole Foods has achieved is extraordinary. The company has been a holding in my Everlasting Portfolio in Motley Fool One, where we are beating the market 70.5% to 45.4%. Whole Foods makes up a 4% position in the portfolio. And in discussions inside of Fool One today, I shared my thoughts about Whole Foods stock at today's prices.

    My opinions are my own, and always will be. The same is true across our Motley Fool team of advisors, analysts, bloggers, CAPS players, and community members. A giant open forum for civil debate in the greatest marketplace of ideas ever created for investors.

    John M. has been named the 8th greatest living entrepreneur by Fortune Magazine. He's also extremely self-critical (I believe his immediate response to the Fortune article was to begin citing all of the living entrepreneurs that are better than he is). I have great confidence that he is going to add a lot to The Motley Fool, helping us to:

    a) better serve our members

    b) scale to serve a much broader base

    c) ensure quality in all that we do

    d) establish improved ratings systems

    e) understand better how to serve all stakeholders

    f) disrupt and reconstruct an industry that needs it

    John posted above that he would be happy to see us remove Whole Foods from any and all of our portfolios. He's right -- doing so would have no material effect on the market capitalization of Whole Foods. We are, of course, going to continue on just as we have -- giving our advisors and analysts freedom to express their opinions for the improvement of the investment returns of our members around the world. Whether they choose to buy, hold, sell, or short Whole Foods, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, LinkedIn, TD Ameritrade, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and dozens of other public companies that we have some connection with. . . is entirely their choice. The goal is simply to continue helping you, and the rest of the world, to invest better, forever.

    Tom Gardner

    PS Our Board dinners will now have a steady vegan option.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:28 PM, guy66scarff wrote:

    I love the nickname Whole Paycheck! So true, I have never shopped there without utter sticker shock at checkout! Guess that is why their shopping baskets are so small.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:32 PM, TMFDiggity wrote:

    So excited to have John on our board! He has spent his life educating people on how to improve their physical well-being, and giving them the tools to do so. I'd say that aligns well with our mission to improve people's financial well-being (in other words, to help the world invest better). Thrilled to have his guidance!

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:33 PM, TMFGebinr wrote:

    I'm glad that Mr. Mackey has joined our board and hope to get to know him better.

    Being a member of the investment team as a senior analyst for Stock Advisor (where Whole Foods is an active recommendation), I will say that TMF's board of directors has zero, zip, nada to do with what companies are added or dropped from our services or about what we write regarding any company.

    We disclose the fact he is on our board in any article that mentions Whole Foods, both on Fool.com and in our newsletters, and have done so from the moment he joined our board. This is identical to disclosing stock ownership by the writers of our content. It lays out any potential conflict of interest and lets the reader take that into account.

    Cheers,

    Jim Mueller

    (Even though you can click my username to see what stocks I own to check and see, I am long WFM.)

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:44 PM, gajohnsonks wrote:

    Wait, links to Alabama? The MF may have crossed the line, now... It is one thing to have conflicts of interest, we all have to deal with these, but The Crimson Tide?

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:49 PM, wytcld wrote:

    I'm not worried by the "conflict of interest" charges. However I'm a bit concerned about having someone on the board who's spoken favorably of tax avoidance, praising Apple for doing that, and also called universal health care "fascism" - as if every other country in the developed world, all of which have long had it, is fascist. That said, I own Apple stock, so I'm hardly a purist.

    Is it true that Mr. Mackey is a climate change denier? Admittedly on this one, I also own stock in an oil company that helps fund that disinformation (would that they'd stop that!), as well as in a tobacco company that used to use the same PR firms for its own disinformation campaigns (the science about tobacco and cancer being "junk science" according to them then). But when Fool is so positive towards Elon Musk's ventures - led by someone who well knows the existential threat that climate change presents - to put on its board someone who is a denialist seems, well, to move in the opposite direction of wisdom.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 6:00 PM, jayrock wrote:

    Whole Foods is about much more than eating healthier, it's about eating more ethically, and revolting against big ag businesses and their factory-farming practices. THAT'S why people pay more for their groceries...

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 6:05 PM, Domeyrock wrote:

    http://youtu.be/m1i3hSO_sis

    Watch the video and let us know if you still think it's whole_paycheck. Do you've own research before you judge. The family in the video compares Safeway, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in buying basic food items. By the way, Whole Foods wins.

    Mr Mackey, thank you for your wonderful store and business sense, and for having such a major impact on how we should be eating in this country, and changing the narrative about the quality of food that's sold in this country. Thank you!

    Dominic

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 6:40 PM, cmalek wrote:

    TMF is getting closer and closer to being like the rest of the schlock investment newsletters.

    BTW - I joined TMF shortly after they left AOL and got their own site. I've observed the changes take place over time. At the beginning TMF was anti-Wall Street establshment and for the individual investor. Now they have become part of the Wall Street establishment. Who is going to be the next CEO to join the Board of Directors, jamie Dimon or maybe Dennis Kozlowski or maybe Ken Lay?

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 8:22 PM, foolishmoney wrote:

    I am most disappointed by this choice as well. I am a recent WFM shareholder, underwater, and have been adding to my position as prices have declined. The TMF buy signal seemed on track, buy low, sell high some years later, the fundamentals are good. That buy signal now has the appearance of being less pure. I am now going neutral on WFM.

    In my business, our operating Code of Ethics requires not only no Conflict of Interest, but further, even the "appearance" of Conflict of Interest is prohibited.

    Call me a Fool or a fool, you choose.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 10:02 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    cmalek, it will be difficult to add Ken Lay to our Board, as he died in 2006.

    I will happily add new CEOs to our Board of Directors. If Jim Sinegal (Costco) or Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) or Larry Page (Google) would be interested in joining our Board, we'd gladly welcome them. I think they are all in the same group as John and Walter Robb at Whole Foods.

    The "CEO" acronym does not equate to "Wall Street insider". It's easy to paintbrush all business and business leadership as self-serving and indecent. It takes a little more work to separate the great from the good from the mediocre from the destructive (which, by the way, I think is a relatively small number of CEOs).

    Best of luck with your investments!

    Tom Gardner

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 10:12 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    foolishmoney, I see from your posts that you just bought Whole Foods last week. Seven days is not a sufficient period for evaluating a business that has been around for more than 30 years. Our average holding period at The Motley Fool ranges into the years -- across all of our investments.

    In Motley Fool One, I have provided examples to our members that demonstrate that the greatest companies and stocks of any generation typically lose more than 40% of their value at least twice each decade. This is just the nature of investing in business. Investor opinions change. And, of course, there are periods that companies simply struggle.

    The rewards go to those who perservere. Warren Buffett has an average holding period north of 20 years across his handful of largest holdings. That's a very important statistic. Buffett is the greatest investor in American history. And he is demonstrating for other individual investors (since he is nothing more than an individual way out in Omaha who decided to invest) . . . he is demonstrating how greatness can be achieved. It won't be over a week or a year. Or even a decade. It's going to take an individual and/or a family's commitment to buying businesses.

    Whole Foods has returned something on the order of 20% per year since 1992. That stands up very nicely against the vast majority of investment options across the world. By the way, Starbucks has done better. There are a lot of great businesses out there right in front of our eyes. But it is key to learn how to manage temperament. . and to stay in the game of investing for life, with the inclination to hold your positions.

    I wish you the best. We're here to help.

    Tom Gardner

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 11:02 PM, foolishmoney wrote:

    TG, My first purchase of WFM was on 11/15/13, and I have increased my position 4 times since then, most recently last week. Still, just the quickest wink of an eye, I understand. And while I am recent to TMF, I am a long investor, so I am not thinking about bailing anytime soon. The potential for conflict of interest just raises questions that didn't and shouldn't have to be there, in my opinion.

    I wish you the best also, and I'm very certain TMF will succeed and help people build wealth. You've got a spectacular record, and I value your service. Fool On!

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 11:30 PM, TMFGebinr wrote:

    "In my business, our operating Code of Ethics requires not only no Conflict of Interest, but further, even the 'appearance' of Conflict of Interest is prohibited."

    Hi foolishmoney,

    The CFA Institute has the highest level of ethical standards that I'm aware of in the investing profession. That code requires declaration of any real or potential conflicts of interest (such as stock ownership, which TMF has always allowed for its writers when accompanied by disclosure).

    Yes, there is a potential conflict of interest in having on our Board of Directors the CEO of a company whose company's shares TMF owns and which is an active buy recommendation in at least one of our services (see the disclosure immediately after today's article, above). By assiduously noting such since John Mackey became a member of TMF's board of directors and by not allowing the members of the board to influence our investing and analytical decisions, I believe we have satisfied any ethical obligation. It is up to the reader of or subscriber to our content to judge any level of bias in our coverage of Whole Foods after reading the disclosure.

    As a CFA candidate, I believe that our disclosures and the wall between the investing team and the Board regarding investing decisions satisfy any ethical considerations held as best practice by the CFA Institute.

    Cheers,

    Jim Mueller

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 11:48 PM, ADrumlinDaisy wrote:

    I am thrilled to see JM join the MF team!

    He is ethical, he is brilliant, and he will add a lot to the most ethical enterprise in the world of finance (IMO).

    I was a minor owner in several organic food companies (Walnut Acres and Acirca), and my much more famous partners both knew JM and respected him at every level—they viewed him as very much the real deal, both as a businessman and as someone committed to fixing our broken food chain.

    Speaking just for myself, I cannot imagine that people of the quality and fiber of JM and the G brothers would allow this relationship, and the minor resulting conflicts, to affect their conduct in their roles at MF.

    One more note: I have had a very long career as an M&A attorney. I could be wrong, but in my experience this type of board augmentation is pretty much 100% correlated with a near-term (within a couple of years) plan to go public.

    Is this notion investable? Well, I am not recommending this, but wouldn’t it be fun to have a good reason – e.g., a scaled-up formidable competitor -- to short GS?

    (Uh oh – OTOH, what if GS is the underwriter for the MF IPO? OMG . . . .)

    Rich

    A Drumlin Daisy

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 12:05 AM, TMFBuck wrote:

    Hi John,

    Welcome aboard this ship o' Fools!

    It's great to have someone who is so passionate about investing and serving our members join our BOD.

    Buck

    Who enjoys investing in his family's health through meals and groceries from your old town store each week!

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 12:23 AM, TheCommonTulip wrote:

    Side note: what an amazing story by Tom G. on the SBUX VC example. So glad TMF didn't go public, and I hope you never do:) Fascinating insight, fool on!

    Adem

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 12:31 AM, TheCommonTulip wrote:

    Sometimes people just post things to be negative. Seriously, what's up with the guy who compared this to putting Ken Lay (of Enron) to the board?

    In my "John McEnroe voice": "You cannot be serious!"

    AT

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 1:22 AM, Libertarian71 wrote:

    This is outrageous. I am considering dropping my subscriptions to the various Motley Fool newsletters upon learning of this news. Nothing personal against Mackey or his company. From what I understand, he's a solid free market libertarian and a great businessman. It's the Motley Fool, whose judgment I question.

    It's also sad to hear from Tom G that current Board Members have ties to GE and Goldman Sachs. NO WONDER the Fool has as its main economics columnist the pro-Establishment Morgan Housel, who is always praising the Federal Reserve, praising government debt, praising the Obama regime, praising the bailouts, crying that we need to keep raising the debt ceiling, and praising crony capitalism in general.

    But why would TMF have the CEO of a company of a stock it covers on its Board of Directors?

    What kind of chilling effect will this have upon Motley Fool analysts who for example, would question Mackey's capital allocation decisions or pricing policies? Or what about a Motley Fool analyst who, for example, would recommend shares in a competitor, e.g., Sprouts? (Sprouts, by the way, have nicer stores than Whole Foods). What about a Motley Fool analyst who would recommend a hold or sell (or "penalty box") decision upon Whole Foods?

    I had expected The Motley Fool to be more of a straight shooter, and less of an Establishment lap dog.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 3:56 AM, Remibi wrote:

    Let us give John a chance. Welcome John

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 6:22 AM, TMFWillSommers wrote:

    As an employee and shareholder of the Motley Fool, I'm thrilled that John Mackey has joined our board of directors. I have tremendous respect for his track record in business, and I love his independent, forthright style. He's a great a fit for the Fool!

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 7:37 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    Good choice in adding Mr. Mackey. I agree with TMFWillSommers.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 8:16 AM, agsimon wrote:

    Yeah, no.

    Humanitarian ouatwardly against affordable health care? No conflict there.........

    Where else won't we find it?

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 12:02 PM, sshaw wrote:

    Welcome John,

    I am sure your work here will help round TMF. I will continue to read and filter based on my own opinions. Today i had a lot of reading here. Funny, and enjoyable to see so many diverse comments on you "experience". I will have to stop there as my tiny phone will make my opinions too tough to pass on... there goes my cursor again. Anybody recommend a good phone providor stock?

    Regards, ss : )

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 12:17 PM, MattM1184 wrote:

    Tom G, I too share some concern about this decision. I have been a fool since 2000 and just subscribed to Stock Adviser a year ago. I JUST bought WFM and I have no concerns for the short term, but agree with what someone said earlier. What if an analyst wanted to change WFM to a hold or sell a few years from now? Can we be assured there won't be a bias there?

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 12:46 PM, QuickCarrera wrote:

    It's great to see you here, John!

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 2:43 PM, Taju wrote:

    Weighing in to say I think it is a conflict of interest, but I have a high degree of confidence in TMF. I subscribe to SA and have an investment in WFM, so I don't like the idea of having to wonder what kind of influence this decision will have on SA recommendations. However, I am willing to let this play out and see how it looks after John has served for a while.

    I subscribe to SA because I trust TMF. I put a lot of weight on their recommendations. I've been a fan since the early days, after reading "13 Steps to Investing Foolishly" and will remain a fan and subscriber.

    Here is a famous quote that has been used often in TMF advertising:

    "It stands out as an ethical oasis in an area that is fast becoming a home to charlatans." -- The Economist

    I am confident TMF will keep it that way.

    Taju

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 4:40 PM, Libertarian71 wrote:

    So we have established that it's either a conflict of interest, or a potential conflict of interest, that the Motley Fool has John Mackey on its Board of Directors.

    Tom G cavalierly brushes all of these concerns aside by stating that: "We disclose the fact he is on our board in any article that mentions Whole Foods, both on Fool.com and in our newsletters, and have done so from the moment he joined our board. This is identical to disclosing stock ownership by the writers of our content. It lays out any potential conflict of interest and lets the reader take that into account."

    Sorry, Tom G, but that is not enough! TMF should hold itself to a HIGHER ethical standard, which entails not disclosure, merely, but avoiding THE APPEARANCE of any conflict of interest.

    TMF's low "mere disclosure" ethical standard would not, for example, cover the situation of a Motley Fool analyst who would recommend a sell or hold or "penalty box" rating on Whole Foods, but who, out of fear of repercussions because Mackey is on the Board, refrain from doing so.

    Or what about a Motley Fool analyst who who recommend an up-and-coming competitor of WFM (e.g., SFM)? What about a Motley Fool analyst who wants to write an article criticizing WFM's paltry dividend payment?

    In other words, Mackey's presence on the Board will unquestionably have a CHILLING EFFECT upon Motley Fool analyst. The only coverage of Whole Foods that we can expect, and will see, will be fawning fluff pieces, e.g., the kind that Alyce Lomax periodically writes about WFM, whom she likes because the kind of people who shop at WFM are the kind of people who share her political views.

    In short, the decision to include John Mackey on the Board is an ethical blunder by the Motley Fool. It's subscribers should expect more. I will be canceling my various Motley Fool newsletter subscriptions.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 10:18 PM, Carpian wrote:

    If TMF really wants to "disrupt the financial industry" from its "menu of unhealthy investment guidance", they would avoid even the appearance of this type of conflict of interest.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 10:20 PM, bigbro79 wrote:

    I do believe that it is a potential conflict of interest. But the key thing here is to do your own homework. I'm a SA and Income Investor subscriber myself. I don't always buy based on their recommendations. I have stocks in my portfolio that aren't SA or II picks. If you are just picking the stocks they recommend then you are doing yourself a disservice.

    Is it possible that an analyst might want to give WF the benefit of the doubt because he is a board member now? Sure. That's why you have the disclosure. So that when you read the recommendation you can take his board membership into account. And it's not as if this is a secret, it's front page of the website.

    I guess it really boils down to you either believe that WF will receive preferential treatment from MF analysts or you don't. I personally fall in the later category. If anything I think WF will receive more scrutiny from the analysts as they will want to be sure that they are not showing preferential treatment.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 10:29 PM, rickf101 wrote:

    what a mess ....How can this be anything but a conflict of interest ....

    Mr mackey's response

    A conflict of interest? Frankly, I couldn't care less whether the Motley Fool recommends Whole Foods stock or not. It won't have any affect on our stock one way or another as the large institutions own virtually all of the outstanding shares of the company. If this is a big issue for people then I would be happy to see Whole Foods removed from all of the recommended portfolios.

    Does he know dave just recommended WFM as a best buy this week? he would be happy to see it removed when David thinks it is a best buy.>>>no conflict here :)

    Tom's response includes a reference to the Board having better lunch options at their meetings... SO does that mean WFM will be catering the meetings ? >>>no conflict there :)

    Is Mr Mackey aware the motley fool is for ALL investors and not just institutional investors (that have taken such good care of him) many of us, myself included, are trying to build a nest egg for retirement and to insure financial security. We look to TMF for that help and guidance.

    The lighthearted nature with which these concerns are being addressed is maybe more disturbing to me than the appointment itself. TMF has been called an ethical oasis in the field of finance but i think that image has taken a hit with this announcement.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 10:53 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    ADrumlinDaisy, we agree. We've spent time with a broad range of business leaders over the last 21 years. John will bring experience that will help us drive forward our purpose of helping the world invest -- better.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 10:58 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    Libertarian, I'm surprised by your response given your name. You emphasized some of the connections we have as concerning. Let me elaborate. Our connection to Goldman Sachs comes from their former Chief Learning Officer, Steve Kerr, who was the first CLO ever at General Electric. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest minds on culture, performance and rewards in the world. He is one of the leading reasons we were named the #1 place to work in the US for companies with between 250-1000 employees (by Glassdoor). Our connection Morgan Stanley comes in the form of a director who worked there a decade ago.

    Of course, I hope you continue with us at The Motley Fool. There are no companies anywhere in the world without connections to other companies. The key is disclosure.

    Finally, as for our analysts, they have always spoken with complete freedom. This goes for our contract bloggers, our community members, David, me, and everyone at The Motley Fool. Everywhere you look, there is evidence of this. It sounds like I won't be able to convince you of this. I wish you the best with your investments.

    Tom Gardner

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 11:04 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    Carplan, avoiding the "appearance of a conflict of interests" sounds great in theory. In practice, it is simply impossible. There is no director or employee that we could hire without some existing connection to a public company. Their parent worked there; they once worked there; they are avid customers of their product; they are existing shareholders. You simply won't find it.

    This is going to be true at any investment company (and any other company) in the world. Again, it sounds inspiring -- a company with not even the appearance of a conflict of interest. It sounds utopian -- with a reminder that the word comes from the Greek "eu topos", translated as "no place." It doesn't exist.

    The easiest way to clarify this for everyone is -- can you name an organization that does not even have the appearance of a conflict of interest?

    What is important is to disclose those issues -- which we do across our site.

    Tom Gardner

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 11:09 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    rickf, your note suggests that you've already made up your mind. One simple approach is simply to ignore our guidance on Whole Foods and its industry. I think you'll be missing a lot of thoughtful advice from across more than 2000 contributors at The Fool -- all of whom have freedom to publish whatever their opinion.

    Of course, I love the discussion and debate on any topic. But again, the most straightforward explanation that I can give is that no company lacks connections to other companies. What you see on our mainpage is a very prominent disclosure, which will also exist continually in our coverage of Whole Foods.

    I wish you the best with your investments.

    Tom Gardner

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 12:20 AM, Carpian wrote:

    Thanks for the response, Tom, and I appreciate that you are here dealing with the issues raised head on. I agree that perfection is unattainable. But does that mean you just give up entirely? Is there really no difference between appointing a director whose parent works for some publicly traded company vs. appointing the CEO of an active recommendation of at least one if not many of your newsletters?

    TMF runs a very good website and stock-picking services (well, apart from the frequent over-the-top marketing pieces, but that's another story). From what I hear, I believe Mr. Mackey is an outstanding, creative businessman who brings a lot of good things to the table. Nothing against either of you. But I do believe this is an appearance that should be avoided--or at the very least, as Mr. Mackey suggests, WFM should be removed from active TMF recommendations.

    I've been around TMF since the late 90's, and if I had a nickel for every time for every time I've heard people level accusations of being self-serving at analysts ("They put a Sell rating on that stock just so they can pick up some shares for themselves on the cheap"), I could buy one heck of a lot shares of WFM. If I'm not mistaken (and I certainly could be), I believe I have seen that type of comment several times from various TMF staffers, including the Gardner brothers? (If I am wrong about that, I apologize--I long ago gave away my first TMF book that turned me on to investing, or I would try to look it up. I'm thinking it was in there.) There certainly is an accusation leveled at the integrity of the financial industry in this article, in any case. But what you've done doesn't give the appearance of being much different. You can't just say "It's OK for us to do it, because we're the good guys."

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 8:23 AM, IU2007 wrote:

    As a longtime Fool, I'm glad John's on the BOD. Regarding removing it from active recommendation, I think that's rediculous. By even suggesting that, creates an environment of political distrust. The Fool's mission is to help the world invest better. WFM has been a great example for that. So even removing WFM from recommendations puts an asterisk next to the mission statement saying -- help the world invest better * but not by following whole foods.

    In short, I'm not sure why everyone's up in arms. Are you here to be a better investor? Then this materially doesn't change that, especially in light of the transparency. Think about all of the companies you might be a shareholder of -- can you name one person on its BOD? My guess is no, bc if so according to the arguments above, you would have so many conflicts of interest your head might explode and you'd stop investing altogether.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 8:56 AM, DufferWD wrote:

    Wow. A lot of negativism here. Over what? Recommendation quality over one stock out of the MF Universe?

    What a board needs is good business people. MF invests in good businesses. Why are people surprised a board member is from a MF stock recommendation? If you've got a concern about recommendation quality, don't buy WFM. I don't buy all of MFs recommendations.

    Welcome aboard Rahodeb! I believe you'll be a great asset to the MF team. I hope you like a group with diverse opinions!

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 11:13 AM, TMFTrog wrote:

    Thanks for the comment, DufferWD.

    And welcome to the family, John! We're excited to have you!

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 11:41 AM, MattM1184 wrote:

    The more I look into this, the more it's not a big deal. They disclose all of their board members and we have to realize that they do a lot of business many outside companies, all of which could be seen as a "conflict of interest". If you can't trust the Gardner brothers for ethical unbiased advice I'm not sure who you CAN trust.

    TMFTomG, on a side note I just wanted to let you know I appreciate everything you guys do. I have been a member since I was 15. I knew nothing about investing (I remember looking up what a "stock" was lol). I learned what I could from your site, bought a couple of your books and am now fast forward a few years and I'm in the Air Force entering grad school pursuing an MBA at age 29 (I wish I would have subscribed to stock adviser sooner though). Thanks for all ya'll do.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 12:04 PM, TMFKaren wrote:

    As a long time Fool (fan and staffer) I warmly welcome John to the BOD. Tom and David are two of the smartest people I have ever known and I am proud of what they have built over the years (and grateful,as well).

    John has built a fantastic company, and I credit Whole Foods for helping to keep me, and mine, on a healthy track. From my point of view, the merger of these minds will help keep TMF on a strong and healthy path going forward.

    Welcome aboard, John!

    Karen

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 2:57 PM, riker420 wrote:

    Small conflict of interest now in your ubiased approach to WFM and other-related companies. Doesn't matter much I guess, as it reinforces my already existing opinion that the Motley Fool is worth nothing more than the data feed compiling 3rd party blogs by ticker. I also quit going to Whole Foods last year except for cat food. Coincidence?

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 3:35 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    I'd like to chime in. Wow, what a discussion! As some of you know, for about 10 years I have followed Whole Foods' business as well as John Mackey's philosophies. We do like to assess management, and Mr. Mackey is one of the more interesting corporate leaders. His critical thinking over the many years indicates the makings of a very good director -- one who should be able to strike truly productive conversations.

    I'm hoping those who are worried have analyzed their own stocks' weaknesses on managements and boards of directors by digging through their own companies' proxy statements. If this situation is considered "disturbing," many of the disclosures about things that smack of serious conflicts of interest at many public companies are the equivalent of horror novels. Move over, Stephen King.

    Over the years Mr. Mackey has at times sparked controversy with some statements, but has also made many legitimately good points, strong arguments, and provoked thought when we need more critical thinking in our marketplace and society. He has debated Milton Friedman and Michael Pollan -- both of which I have a feeling share some points in their philosophies. This is a departure from most leaders who don't want to say anything strong, straightforward, or critical about anything for fear of being seen in a "bad light." Individuals who will debate points can be very good directors.

    In this case, for those who haven't followed my work for years, I actually have occasionally WFM's criticized leadership and strategy and I was able to freely voice my opinions here. I believe strongly in sometimes questioning our companies' managements AND even our own feelings and theses. However, I never sold the stock. I still believed in the overall vision and management, but did feel it was honest and important to bring up things I wasn't feeling entirely sure about. I don't sell easily, but at times I do want to question.

    Which gets us to, to address a frequent point that has been brought up: I don't believe in 10 years' time with The Motley Fool I have ever seen a stock every one of us thought was a buy or a sell, certainly not for such reasons -- nor have I seen anything even remotely like fear of retaliation for investment opinions (or some "chilling effect" as has also been mentioned in this discussion).

    Again, welcome John Mackey. Yes, he has created a great company that has questioned, influenced, and disrupted an entrenched industry and furthered health awareness and consumption. But he has also helped spearhead an overall positive philosophy (conscious capitalism). I believe such thinking is a great thing for us, fits within our long-term strategy, and therefore good for our members and community. I think Mr. Mackey is a very good choice.

    Fool on!

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 3:38 PM, rickf101 wrote:

    Can anyone at the Motley Fool tell me how this is not a conflict of interest ? or are they all going to toe the company line and continue to dismiss concerns over this ? I am sure all involved are good, well meaning people but how is this a good thing ?

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 5:28 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    Unlike many commenter in this forum, I do not view John Mackey's inclusion on MF Board a fatal mistake. It simply requires everyone, PARTICULARLY WFM fans on staff and the Management at TMF to exercise greater caution and invest more time in research to overcome the lingering and entirely predictable effects of the obvious conflict. Yes, there is a conflict...so what? What matters most is you know about it and if suitable to it, behave over-the-top skeptical (yes I know that's hard to believe coming from me...).

    The whole problem therefore is NOT with those who worry about it and zealously guard against it, the problem with conflicts comes from those who deny it exists OR WORSE dismiss it as not an issue, thereby ignoring it.

    This is not theoretical. I won't even bother to give examples because they are so common.

    I do take solace in the many comments from Fools who are expressing their misgivings. I have little doubt they will be watchful. I do not know if I should make anything at all of the "Welcome John" sentiments from TMF affiliated persons above other than polite conversation.

    I DO wish to expand on my terse message early on in this discussion. John Mackey, TMF TomG, TMF Lomax. I have every confidence you will be on your guard and step up rather than relax fact based opinions, to the point of more in depth and critical review of anything involving WFM and its competitors, suppliers, and associations.

    That sort of extra effort under the circumstances should not be begrudged.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 5:15 AM, Fiordilatte wrote:

    Bravo TMF for bringing on board one of the world's more enlightened capitalists. Bringing a multi-stakeholder approach to investments is an idea who's time has come and will demonstrate long-term sustained value creation. It's time for more CEOs and investors to catch on and work to build organizations that create value for all stakeholders thorough conscious leadership and purpose driven organizations. That is the world I want to live in and we need to do everything we can to build it. Thank you John and TMF for joining forces!

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 8:31 AM, TMFKipper wrote:

    As a long-time WFMI shareholder, longer-time Fool, and recent reader of Conscious Capitalism, I am delighted to welcome John to the BoD. The mutual sharing of ideas and experiences with yet another Foolish mind is, to me, fundamentally a very good thing. (John, if by chance you read this little post, I hope to someday cross the Atlantic and cross your path!) -jill (London-based Fool)

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 9:20 AM, TMFBoomer wrote:

    Whole Foods is helping to change a $500 billion grocery industry in desperate need of an overhaul. The financial sector's much larger, but in no less need of a transformation. It will be invaluable to have John's input as the Motley Fool goes about helping the world invest better. From a fellow Texan, welcome aboard, John!

    Isaac

    @TMFBoomer

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 12:21 PM, TheRealRacc wrote:

    Congratulations Mr. Mackey and Good Luck to you and the Fool!

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 2:04 PM, pab wrote:

    Second the conflict of interest observation. I am appalled that the Fool seems totally tone deaf to this situation.

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2014, at 5:37 PM, mrmok wrote:

    I have no doubt Mr Mackey is a great investor and entrepreneur, however his appointment to the board of directors of a stock service will inevitably affect the recommendations made by MF. Any future recommendations not only in regards to WFM but in the food industry in general will have to be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

    Besides being a conflict of interest, this appointment sets a horrible precedent.

    Hmm. I wonder what they were thinking(or apparently Not Thinking in this case)?

  • Report this Comment On January 17, 2014, at 4:41 PM, whyaduck1128 wrote:

    The Gardners certainly had their rationalizations ready for this one, knowing that many Fools would not be happy with this obvious conflict of interest.

    I have long been concerned with the sociopolitical views that have often run through TMF's recommendations and writings. I have stuck with it because the INVESTMENT advice itself is good and often well-voiced.

    However, this "Conscious Capitalism" stuff is not why I came here, nor is it why I stay. My politics, my view of the world, and my desire or lack thereof to subscribe to all this Hopey-Dopey-Changey stuff we've had forced down our throats by the mainstream media, to sit around a campfire with a properly multi-cultural diverse group, singing "Kumbaya", is not part of the investment ethos to which I wish to subscribe. I'll do my "socially conscious investing" thing on my own (and I do, starting with not investing in the Big Banks and Big Agra) and have no desire to force it on anyone nor to have it forced on me.

    I love TMF when it sticks to INVESTING. I'd like to stay. Time will tell whether there is in reality the conflict of interest that now exists in appearance.

  • Report this Comment On January 17, 2014, at 9:09 PM, todamo13 wrote:

    Hopefully more and more people will wake up to the fact that what they invest in makes a difference in the world, just like what foods they choose to buy, from where, and how those foods were grown and raised.

    If we want those who come after us to have a decent world to live in, we had best start building and investing in that world today. We need to look beyond the bottom line.

    I hope that "conscious capitalism" will steadily become more and more just the normal way of looking at business and money. Then we might have a chance on this planet!

    Welcome, Mr Mackey.

  • Report this Comment On January 18, 2014, at 8:58 AM, dstb wrote:

    Well if Mr. Mackey truly does think universal healthcare is fascist and questions that humans are causing global warming (or climate change or whatever tag line they prefer to use today) then I like him already because he is correct on both counts. Fool on.

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