John P. Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods Market, has never lacked for personality.
He is a self-described vegan and libertarian who pays himself $1 a year as chairman and chief executive and maintains a blog on the company’s Web site where the posts are occasionally barbed.
As it turns out, that was only the half of it. For seven years, Mr. Mackey had an online alter ego.
Using the pseudonym Rahodeb — a variation of Deborah, his wife’s name — Mr. Mackey typed out more than 1,100 entries on Yahoo Finance’s bulletin board over a seven-year period, championing his company’s stock and occasionally blasting a rival, Wild Oats Markets. The story was first disclosed on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site last night.
Responding to a posting on March 28, 2006, Rahodeb wrote: “OATS has lost their way and no longer has a sense of mission or even a well-thought-out theory of the business. They lack a viable business model that they can replicate. They are floundering around hoping to find a viable strategy that may stop their erosion. Problem is that they lack the time and the capital now.”
Mr. Mackey apparently did not fool participants on the forum, who occasionally tried to out Rahodeb. In one instance, he responded by saying that he was in fact George W. Bush.
In response to another posting, titled, “Hey John — I mean Rahodeb,” he wrote on June 10, 2003: “Another person who thinks my name is John (Mackey)! Well if you really believe I’m John Mackey you should probably pay more attention to what I say on this board. I would be the ultimate Whole Foods Insider!”
Mr. Mackey’s alias surfaced in a footnote in a 40-page court document filed on June 6 by lawyers for the Federal Trade Commission, which is trying to block Whole Foods’ acquisition of Wild Oats on the ground that it would limit competition among natural and organic groceries.
Whole Foods announced in February that it planned to buy its smaller rival for $565 million. Mr. Mackey posted a response on his company’s Web site late Wednesday, acknowledging that he used the pseudonym “Rahodeb” on Yahoo financial bulletin boards from 1999 until last summer. He said the F.T.C. discovered his alias “through one of the millions of litigation documents that Whole Foods provided to them.”
“I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it,” he wrote. “I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.”
Mr. Mackey said the views expressed sometimes represented his beliefs. In other instances, he said, he offered different views from his own to play devil’s advocate. He said no proprietary information on Whole Foods was disclosed.
But Mr. Mackey’s writings are proving to be a critical element in the Federal Trade Commission’s case.
“There is no mystery as to why Whole Foods wants to buy its closest rival,” the government wrote in the June 6 court document. The document also said that Mr. Mackey justified paying a significant premium for Wild Oats by telling board members that the company would “avoid nasty price wars in Portland (both Oregon and Maine), Boulder, Nashville and several other cities which will harm our gross margins and profitability.”
“OATS may not be able to defeat us but they can still hurt us,” Mr. Mackey said, according to the government.
Mr. Mackey has argued that his company competes not just with Wild Oats but also with conventional grocery stores that have rushed to offer organic products, largely because of the success of Whole Foods.
Teaming with Wild Oats, he said, would create a company better suited to combat larger rivals like Kroger, Safeway and Wal-Mart.
But Rahodeb showed little respect for Wild Oats and its former chief executive, Perry Odak. In a Feb. 24, 2005, posting, he wrote, “Perhaps the OATS Board will wake up and dump Odak and bring in a visionary and highly competent C.E.O.”
At the same time, he wrote glowingly and anonymously of John Mackey.
“I like Mackey’s haircut. I think he looks cute!” Rahodeb wrote on April 28, 2000.
“You must not patronize any of WFMI’s stores,” the writer continued, using Whole Food’s stock symbol. “Tatoos, piercings, unusual dress and interesting haircuts are everywhere in the stores. In comparison, Mackey looks like a model for Brooks Brothers!”
Rahodeb’s final remarks were posted last August, after he lost a bet to another correspondent, Hubris12000, over Whole Food’s stock performance.
“Surgeon General and Boston Cowboy — you were both right about my true identity all along,” he concluded. “Congratulations on your cleverness.”
As one might expect, Yahoo’s message boards erupted with chatter about Mr. Mackey’s secret identity.
“In light of this news, perhaps the name of the company should be changed to Whole Foods Bazaar,” JimTarHeel wrote. “What a hoot! It’s so Nixonion! Maybe he needs some animal fat in his diet. I’ve known vegans who suffered from teeth and gum disease; now we know a vegan who’s suffering from ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease.”
我见过 @来去之间 登过雪球，不过确实如方丈所言辩才也不一定能支撑和这边的人辩论也没这空干这么无聊的事，再说了，渣浪和微博都是美股，不是这边的主力。