Whole Foods chief John Mackey ate organic humble pie Tuesday, as he apologized to shareholders for making anonymous posts about his company on Yahoo's financial message board.
Mackey's mea culpa comes as company directors announced they have formed a special committee to conduct an internal investigation into the postings. But it looks like the US Securities and Exchange Commission has beaten them to the punch.
"I sincerely apologize to all Whole Foods Market stakeholders for my error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards," said Mackey in a brief statement on the company's website. "I am very sorry and I ask our stakeholders to please forgive me."
Mackey's life as a troll began in 1999 when he started posting on the financial message board as "rahodeb" — an anagram of the name of his wife, Deborah. Rahodeb quickly became an outspoken regular on the board, praising and defending Whole Foods with the equally enthusiastic virulence used to attack and shame the company's competitors and nay-sayers.
"The writing is on the wall. The end game is now underway for OATS," Rahodeb wrote on the forum in March. (OATS is the ticker symbol for rival Wild Oats.) "Whole Foods is systematically destroying their viability as a business — market by market, city by city. Bankruptcy remains a distinct possibility for OATS IMO if the business isn't sold within the next few years."
Rahodeb even went so far as to suggest insider stock manipulation at Wild Oats.
Mackey's shenanigans were brought to light when a document filed for a Federal Trade Commission antitrust lawsuit referenced a rahodeb quote. ®
A bonus nugget from rahodeb's career:
"John? Is that you?" joked a member of the board in 2005, amazed by rahodeb's insight into the company.
"Oh yes, 'the John Mackey identity theory.' I've heard it a few times before on this Board. Belive [sic] it if you wish since it enhances the value of what I write," rahodeb responded.
"lol...I was just breaking your stones...but if you do work for the company in some cpacity [sic], GET BACK TO WORK!! :)"