Amazon buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion


Austin-based Whole Foods Market is being acquired by Amazon in an all-cash deal valued at $13.7 billion, the two companies announced Friday.

Amazon had looked at Whole Foods last year, but initially decided not to make an offer.

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The online giant will pay $42 per share — 27 percent more than Thursday’s closing price, $33.06. The acquisition is expected to close during the second half of 2017.

Founded in Austin in 1978, Whole Foods has 465 stores worldwide and 87,000 employees.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, said in a written statement. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

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Whole Foods will continue to be based in Austin, Amazon said, and John Mackey, one of the chain’s founders, will continue to serve as CEO.

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” Mackey said.

Mackey, in a new interview with Texas Monthly, had recently called the agitators who’ve pushed for the Austin-based grocer to make a host of changes – including possibly putting itself up for sale – “greedy bastards” looking to make a quick buck.

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Still, Mackey admitted the company needed to “evolve” — and it had started that evolution. Last month, Whole Foods replaced nearly half its board of directors and hired a new chief financial officer. At the same time, it vowed to improve technology, centralize its buying to get better deals from distributors and roll out a loyalty program at all its U.S. stores.

The Amazon deal, analysts said, will make doing all that much, much easier.

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“This is an earthquake rattling through the grocery sector as well as the retail world,” said Mark Hamrick with Bankrate.com. “We can only imagine the technological innovation that Amazon will bring to the purchasing experience for the consumer. Now, we can see in hindsight that its recent dithering around the brick-and-mortar experience, as an experiment, was only a rumbling of the seismic event in the offing.”

In addition to Amazon, other companies that had reportedly been looking at Whole Foods in recent months included three of the country’s largest supermarket chains: Albertsons, Kroger and Publix.

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“This will be a good deal for consumers, including those who might not have been doing business with Whole Foods in the past, either because of its positioning in the organic branding space or because prices have been seen as high,” Hamrick said. “Amazon can be expected to work to deliver better value to grocery customers, both online and within the brick-and-mortar space.”

This is a developing story. More details to come.

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