Can a public company CEO really be this stupid?

this is supposedly a compendium of postings from the ceo of whole foods on yahoo finance under a made up screen name. it’s simply unbelievable.

Rahodeb’s Greatest Hits
July 13, 2007 3:26 p.m.

For about eight years until last August, Whole Foods Market Inc. CEO John Mackey posted numerous messages on Yahoo Finance stock forums under the logon "Rahodeb" (an anagram of Deborah, Mr. Mackey’s wife’s name).

Rahodeb cheered Whole Foods’ financial results, trumpeted his gains on the stock and bashed Wild Oats Markets Inc., a company that Whole Foods is currently trying to acquire. Rahodeb even defended Mr. Mackey’s haircut when another user poked fun at a photo in the annual report. "I like Mackey’s haircut," Rahodeb said. "I think he looks cute!" Below are some posts of particular note.

Rahodeb on Whole Foods

Mackey the boastful, on Nov. 29, 2000:

"Obviously WFMI is no Wal-Mart (not yet anyway!)"

Criticizing rival Sunflower, an organic grocery store opened by Supervalu:

"Sunflower isn’t too impressive. These guys won’t hurt Whole Foods. Wait and see."

Predicting Whole Foods will someday be a mammoth, June 25, 2004:

I believe that what is really happening with the stock is that some really smart institutions are finally realizing what I realized many years ago: Whole Foods Market is going to be a really large company someday. They will hit their $10 billion sales target by the end of the decade (probably before then) and they won’t stop there. It will double to $20 billion 4 years after that (18% CAGR) and probably double again from there to $40 billion within 5 years of then.

The entire food retailing segment is undergoing a huge transformation. Wal-Mart is going to dominate the low price side of the business and Whole Foods is going to dominate the quality/service/healthy side of the business. Those companies stuck in the middle — Safeway, Kroger, & Albertsons — have huge labor union problems that aren’t going to go away, but are likely to only get worse. The future has never looked brighter for Whole Foods than it does right now.

Soliciting advice on corporate strategy, in June 1999:

"If Whole Foods acquired Harry’s do you think they should keep the Harry’s name or change it to Whole Foods Market? How strong is the brand name/goodwill in


for this company?"

Rahodeb on His Identity

Claming to be George W. Bush, denying he’s John Mackey, in January 2004:

"I’ve stated my identity on this board before, but no one apparently believed me. I am George W. Bush and a long-time customer of Whole Foods Market. I own quite a bit of stock in the company and have owned it since the IPO back in 1992. … At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what my non-screen identity really is or what yours is or who anyone else’s is on this board.

"dcc7 [the screen name of another member of the forum] has claimed that my true identity is John Mackey. You can believe that one or not. Doesn’t matter to me. If I really am Mackey, then I’m the ultimate insider at Whole Foods and you would be well served to pay attention to what I have to say on this board. If you don’t believe I’m Mackey (admittedly the idea seems pretty far fetched) then you should still pay attention to what I have to say on this board if my ideas and arguments make sense. If they don’t make sense or you disagree with me — well that’s what bulletin boards like this are all about."

April 25, 2006:

"I am a smartass. So what."

Rahodeb on World Events

Commenting on President Bush’s 2004 re-election, Nov. 3, 2004:

"3.5 million popular vote victory, over 51% of the total vote, and when it is all said and done — 286 electoral votes to Kerry’s 252.

"The anger and hatred of Bush by the Left has not produced victory but rather defeat. Combined with additional seats in the Senate and the House, the defeat of Tom Daschle in

South Dakota

, and a majority of State Governorships (plus future Bush nominees to the Supreme Court) means that the Democratic Party continues to lose support and power in


. Time for the Democrats to accept reality, regroup, move away from the Michael Moore’s and other Leftist extremists in their Party and move back towards the center. If they do, then they might begin to win more elections and eventually regain majority status. If they don’t — well the Republicans will dominate political power in


for decades to come."

On a book called "The Skeptical Environmentalist" by Bjorn Lomborg, in October 2004:

"Well, ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ was pretty convincing to me and I’ve read very widely about the environment for many years. Lomborg has challenged the current environmental paradigm of doom and gloom. Anyone who authoritatively challenges consensus beliefs is going to be viciously attacked by people who see the world differently. People don’t like to change their beliefs and prefer to dismiss and attack opinions that differ from their own.

"I recommend your reading Lomborg’s own defense of the critical attacks on his personal website. Again I find his defense intellectually compelling."

Rahodeb on John Mackey

Criticizing Mackey for the company’s weak investments outside of retail, in October 2000:

"Everything Whole Foods has done outside of retail hasn’t worked."

And again in November 2000:

"Despite WFMI’s ineptness in investing in businesses outside its core retail expertise, the company continues to open great new stores with high sales, produces strong comp sales growth for stores over 12 months in age, and continues to grow core retail earnings at a 20%+ clip."

On Mr. Mackey’s personality and message:

"Mackey’s message seems to be that Whole Foods is going to run its business for the benefit of its customers, employees, and its long-term investors–not to please the Street or sell-side analysts. Based upon the strong rise in the stock the message has been well received by the Market, if not by the sell-side analysts.

"I like the message. Why should Whole Foods worry about inflation when they can’t do anything about it? They shouldn’t and they don’t."

On a June 2004 New York Times Magazine piece about Mr. Mackey:

"Overall I thought the article was good. However, I’m more enthusiastic about Whole Foods than the journalist was. It seems hard for him to believe that a business can be both profit seeking and socially responsible at the same time."

2 thoughts on “Can a public company CEO really be this stupid?

  1. I find the impulse to comment anonymously or with a pseudonym on forums is an extremely compelling one, particularly on bad or misinformed press. I am sure John Mackey isn’t the only “stupid” CEO who has done this — there is a strong human need to want to defend yourself, and it is natural to enjoy the same anonymity or pseudonymous identity of other participants. (Obviously, commenting publicly on the forums probably wasn’t really an option for Mackey)
    Consider as well the inherent tendency and ease of Internet users to role-play personas — even on this blog there have been at least two different and distinct Marc Pincus personas.
    So while I was shocked when I heard the breathless story on NPR (Mostly thinking: “Doesn’t he have better things to do?”)
    upon reflection, what Mackey did was completely normal and unsurprising when you actually think about it — I am positive that an Internet “Kinsey Report” would show many people have done the same, and lots of celebrities and executives read and contribute (often anonymously) to the forums in which they are discussed.
    I also don’t think the practice of commenting anonymously on one’s company or work is any more morally wrong than, say, “leaking” to journalists….it adds another voice and perspective to the debate.
    Anonymous comments also have the benefit of being taken entirely at face value — For example, KidCroesus, the pseudonymous author of this comment, could be a white collar criminal in jail or a Harvard ethics professor (Mackey’s George W. Bush point, which I agree with) — you have to decide for yourself whether you think I make valid points. The very fact that I am posting under a pseudonym automatically raises the bar on my credibility and bias. And by the way, I take it as a given that anyone who is posting on Yahoo!’s financial forums is almost assuredly biased already.
    Mackey definitely did cross an ethical line if he knowingly slandered (actually lied about) another company in order to lower its shares. That is the moral equivalent of a “pump and dump” play, and illegal. But if he was telling the truth, I’m not sure I see the legal or ethical problem.
    What Mackey did was no different than telling his PR VP to create the perception in the media that his competitor was having financial problems. Hardball, to be sure, but unethical?
    So was it stupid? Well it *is* embarrassing and it *seems* stupid, but who really imagines their pseudonymous identity will be outed? This is actually one of the first times I can remember it happening.
    And I sincerely hope it continues to be a rare occurrence, because preserving anonymity is an important element of free speech.
    Kid Croesus

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