New York City The chief executive of Whole Foods Market is giving up his title of chairman, following years of petitioning by an activist shareholder to separate the two roles.
Co-founder and CEO John Mackey is voluntarily giving up his chairmanship, a position he has held since the company's inception in 1978, according to a Thursday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mackey will remain on the board.
Whole Foods said lead director John Elstrott will become chairman. His current position will be discontinued.
At Whole Foods' annual shareholders meeting in March, CtW Investment Group, a shareholder activist group that works with union pension funds, unsuccessfully proposed that the CEO and chairman roles be separated. The grocer said it has been receiving these proposals for three years.
But in August, CtW raised the stakes by calling for the CEO's removal. The activist group said an editorial by Mackey that appeared in the Wall Street Journal opposing President Obama's healthcare plan damaged the company's reputation, especially among its left-leaning customers.
The shareholder activist has wanted Mackey to relinquish his chairman title because it believes an independent chairman could improve the company's lagging stock price performance.