Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey was over-the-moon about the company’s pending acquisition by Amazon in a town hall meeting with employees after the $13.7 billion deal was announced on Friday, judging from a transcript filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.
With Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke in attendance at the employee meeting, Mackey talked about his admiration for Amazon’s leaders, describing their first meeting as a “blind date” set up by mutual friends.
“It’s been a whirlwind courtship,” Mackey said. “Little over six weeks after we met on this blind date, we’re officially engaged, as of today. But like an old traditional marriage, where there are all kinds of rules and chaperones, we can’t consummate the marriage, until we’re actually officially hooked up. … This is not a Tinder relationship.”
He added, perhaps unnecessarily, “I got a feeling I’m off script.”
Turning somewhat serious, Mackey alluded to some big ideas that Amazon and Whole Foods have in the works for after the acquisition is complete. He described them as “things that I cannot talk about today and won’t be able to talk about until this deal closes.”
That’s not a sure thing. Whole Foods stock closed today at $43.22/share, more than $1 above the per-share value of the Amazon acquisition, in the latest sign that some investors believe there could be a bidding war from a rival acquirer.
But assuming the Amazon deal goes through, Mackey made it clear that technology will play a big part in Whole Foods’ evolution, citing Amazon’s reputation for innovation. “I think we’re gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we’re gonna see a lotta technology. I think you’re gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds,” he said, according to the transcript.
Mackey acknowledged that there would be changes, but assured employees that quality standards would not be one. “There’s no intention to do that,” he said “We’ve got a lot invested in our brand. And these guys are really smart people. They’re not stupid enough to go change that.”
Later, he addressed one of Amazon’s core values: “One of the things they do better than us, they are more customer-centric than we are. They really are. And one of my takeaways is that, by God, we’re gonna become as customer-centric as Amazon. … We’re gonna import their passion about that.”
He added, “Because I think, sometimes, our company’s gone a little bit too much team member focus at the expense of our customers. And that’s one definite evolution that’s gonna happen. I love the passion these guys have around the customer. They put the customer first in everything they do and think backwards. And we’re gonna be the same way.”
Amazon’s Wilke told the employees about his own journey to eating healthier food, and praised the Whole Foods experience.
“When I walk around the stores, I notice an attention to detail, quality, customer experience that is very rare,” he said. Later, he assured the employees, “I would just say, if Whole Foods culture evolves, it’ll be in ways that you decide.”