Whole Foods Rejects Bid to Split Exec Roles

Austin, Texas Shareholders of Whole Foods Market rejected a proposal Monday to create separate roles for the chairman and CEO. The move enables John P. Mackey to keep both roles.

Shareholder advisory firm Proxy Governance had endorsed an advisory resolution that recommended splitting the roles of chairman and chief executive, but the board of directors of the natural-food company opposed the idea. The board was so against the idea that a preliminary count revealed that 27% of the shareholders voted for the proposal, yet 73% were against the move. A similar proposal last year only won 20% support.

Mackey and five others were also re-elected as directors of the company, with at least 88% support. This result proved that some shareholders voted in favor to re-elect Mackey, but also to separate the top two jobs.

Mackey came under fire last year for writing blogs that touted Whole Foods and downgraded competitor Wild Oats Markets, a company that he would eventually buy.

While Proxy Governance said Mackey committed "headline-grabbing acts (that) have been embarrassing to the company,” the company’s directors said Mackey was "uniquely qualified" to lead the company as both chairman and CEO, and that he had successfully made it stand out from other grocers.

Mackey has been chairman and CEO since Whole Foods’ inception in 1980.

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