By CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Whole Foods CEO John Mackey says the deal to be acquired by Amazon was the result of a "whirlwind courtship."
Mackey made the remarks during a town hall with Whole Foods employees after the $13.7 billion deal was announced late last week, according to a transcript of the talk filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mackey said mutual friends set the companies up on a "blind date" in Seattle a little over six weeks ago, and that executives immediately hit it off and ended up speaking for more than two hours.
"It was truly love at first sight," said Mackey.
"We just had these big grins on our faces, like, 'These guys are amazing.' They're so smart. They're so authentic. They say what's on their mind. They're not playin' a bunch of BS games," Mackey said.
A representative for Whole Foods confirmed that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was at the meeting.
Mackey compared the relationship to an "old traditional marriage, where there are all kinds of rules and chaperones." He said they could not "consummate" the relationship until the deal was official, and that it was "not a Tinder relationship."
Beyond the romantic metaphor, Mackey also said the companies discussed what they could do together, though he could not share those plans until the transaction closed. But he said he thought Amazon would be able to help Whole Foods more quickly realize the changes it has already been pursuing, such as a loyalty program and its cost-cutting efforts. He noted that Amazon was known for its innovation.
"I think we're going to get a lot of those innovations in our stores," he said. "I think we're gonna see a lotta technology. I think you're gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds."
The deal comes after Whole Foods has been pressured as a key sales figure has declined. The Austin, Texas-based company has blamed the struggles on the wider availability of organic and natural food at traditional retailers, and said it is working on offering lower prices.
Jeff Wilke, Amazon's CEO of Worldwide Consumer who was on hand at the town hall last week, affirmed that Amazon did not want Whole Foods to change its standards on food quality, according to the transcript. Wilke also noted that Mackey would continue as CEO of Whole Foods, which prompted Mackey to interject by continuing the romantic allusion.
"Until death do us part," Mackey said.
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