There's a strange new chapter in the ongoing saga between Whole Foods Market
Just a few days ago, I quoted statements from Mackey's own blog about the importance of transparency and honesty in the Internet age. I think the substance of Mackey's words still holds true, but anonymous pseudonyms are anything but transparent. Given our Foolish spirit of full disclosure here, Mackey's online masquerade is an unpleasant turn of events.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain ...
Mackey's fessed up about the posts, and at first blush, you might see some logic -- however misguided -- in his desire to speak his mind without letting his position influence others' opinions. In Whole Foods' defense of the action, Mackey said the posts didn't reveal any "official beliefs, policies, or intentions," nor any proprietary information. Check out his words, then look into the posts, and draw your own conclusions.
The hubbub may have little bearing on the continuing FTC skirmish over Whole Foods' acquisition of Wild Oats
Adopting another identity online may be common -- perhaps even among the top ranks of corporate execs. Such alter egos are par for the course in online games like World of Warcraft or Second Life. But that kind of masquerade's not always ethical when it comes to business.
Companies have gotten into hot water for creating ersatz sites or personas online. Sony
Walk the talk ...
I'm fond of Whole Foods, I've applauded John Mackey's leadership in the past, and I still think the FTC's interference with its proposed merger is whacked out, given the companies' competitive landscape. When he's not making the rounds on Yahoo! message boards, Mackey is obviously a smart businessman who knows how to run a successful company. But the smartest people may sometimes be less likely to watch their steps. Pride, as they say, goeth before the fall.
In the wake of the revelation, the media's buzzing about whether John Mackey should step down -- or get fired. However well Whole Foods' CEO knows his business, he's also crossed an important ethical line. While I'm not condoning Mackey's behavior, I'm worried about what Whole Foods might become without him. Either way, it's a difficult call to make.