Whole Foods Market
CtW Investment Group argues that Mackey "attempted to capitalize on the brand reputation of Whole Foods to champion his personal political views," and that his action "deeply offended" members of the grocery's consumer base. Note that CtW is part of Change to Win, a federation of unions; it's no secret that non-unionized Whole Foods isn't exactly chummy with the labor movement.
Ironically, all the outrage seems to ignore that Whole Foods is a very progressive company that treats its employees very well. A Slate article recently noted that Mackey actually uses the same health plan as his employees. When it comes to health care, whatever his opinions, he eats his own (presumably organic) cooking.
Still, the rancorous buzz raises a legitimate question for investors: Should a CEO potentially endanger a company's brand by speaking out about personal beliefs? Executive crusades can be risky and distracting, as Overstock.com's
However, some CEOs can voice opinions with nary a peep. Safeway's
Personally, I think Mackey should stay. He's the company's founder, and in my opinion, taking stances on controversial issues (and rationally supporting his theses) actually demonstrates his intelligence. He may be a loose cannon sometimes, but he's also one of the sharper knives in the proverbial drawer. And lest we forget, he's built a fabulous company.
That said, many investors disagree with me. Some still haven't gotten over the Rahodeb discussion board scandal.
What do you think? Should Whole Foods keep Mackey and his fresh ideas in the CEO spot, or toss him out like last week's lettuce? Sound off in our poll below.