WASHINGTON – Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey said he was worried that the Trump administration would block the Amazon and Whole Foods merger given President Trump’s criticism of the “Amazon Washington Post.”
“President Trump confusedly thinks that Amazon owns the Washington Post. He hates the Washington Post so he hates Jeff Bezos so he hates Amazon and I was thinking man, you guys are going to block this merger, but it did get through the regulatory agencies fairly quickly, so that was good,” Mackey said earlier this month at Liberty Con, which was organized by Students For Liberty.
“It’s going fantastic. We’re six months in and the merger is going very well. Whole Foods has been able to drop its prices. These guys think really long-term and they’re very creative – and Whole Foods is also very creative – so we are in the process of, kind of, reinventing food retailing,” he said. “I’m having the most fun that I’ve had for a long, long, time. I get to be creative again instead of deal with shareholders and Wall Street, which is a drag.”
Trump often refers to the Washington Post as the Amazon Washington Post on Twitter.
Mackey, a libertarian, explained why Whole Foods decided to merge with Amazon after meeting with Jeff Bezos and three other Amazon executives.
“It was really like falling in love if you think back in your life, seriously. When you fall in love you have what I call ‘the conversation,’ you stay up all night and you talk and it’s like, ‘oh my God, this is amazing.’ She’s the one or he’s the one or whatever; you fall in love,” he said. “That’s how we experienced Amazon the first them we met them. They were like so smart and so creative and so, kind of, not corporate – very authentic people and we were finishing each other’s sentences before the first meeting was over.”
Mackey emphasized that “conscious capitalism” means being more conscious about what business is doing in the world and “reframing the dialogue to appeal to people that are not just libertarians.” He argued that private business creates “far more value” than every government and nonprofit in the world.
“Business is the greatest value creator in the world. It creates far more value than all the governments and all the nonprofits by an exponential factor, so why not say that? Why not get out there and talk about the purpose of business? It doesn’t exist just to make money for its shareholders,” he said.
“Of course, it should make money for its shareholders, but it has customers and it has employees and it has suppliers. It’s in communities. It’s a much larger system and all of those need to – they’re all exchanging voluntarily with the business for their own gain,” he added.
Mackey said the merger serves as “proof” that capitalism works, adding that the U.S. capitalist system is “pretty resilient.”
“It’s proof of capitalism. Again, we started with $45,000 in capital and we compounded it. Our first year of sales was $300,000. Our last year of sales was $16 billion as an independent company – do the math. The compounded annual growth rate for 38 years is like 22 percent – that’s pretty darn good, that’s capitalism, that’s what happens,” he said.
“In no way does this prove that conscious capitalism doesn’t work. I mean, that’s how we got to be so successful and it’s a good example of capitalism working. However, pundits are always ready to go tell you that this is finally the end, capitalism is about to die off, and yet it’s pretty resilient,” he added. “We got through the New Deal, we got through eight years of Obama and now we are two years through Trump and we’re still kicking.”
Mackey was asked to respond to critics who argue that the merger demonstrates that Whole Foods could not make it on its own.
“Part of the deal is we get to keep our culture,” he said. “And Amazon is a very powerful culture, but we’ve merged and they are letting us be autonomous to a large extent. And we’re affecting them so they’re affecting us, that’s what happens in a good marriage right? You change. If you want to stay married, you change.”