Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey alluded to recurring tensions between the supermarket chain and parent company Amazon during a company-wide meeting on Tuesday. Business Insider obtained audio of his remarks. Mackey seemed thrilled with Whole Foods’ growth under Amazon, saying “it’s been an incredible year.” But he also revealed that friction and discord between himself and Amazon’s high-ranking executives has been something of a regular occurrence.
“I’m sure that Amazon has probably gotten more disagreement from me than any other single person, and possibly more than everyone else combined,” Mackey said. “I have the least amount to lose. I have done this for 40 years. I am financially secure. I love Whole Foods.”
Amazon announced its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods almost exactly a year ago and has acted quickly to bring many of its own products and services to the upscale grocery stores. Amazon offers same-day Whole Foods delivery through Prime Now, sells Echo speakers, Fire TVs, Kindles, and other hardware at pop-up shops within Whole Foods, and more recently began offering exclusive in-store discounts and promotions to Prime subscribers.
Mackey didn’t specify exactly what he and Amazon have clashed over, but made it clear that he never hesitates to push back if he deems it necessary. “I ultimately am not afraid to get fired so — not that I think they are going to fire me — but I’m not afraid of it, so that gives me a position of strength to speak truth to power when it’s necessary to do so, and I’ve done it many, many times.” He followed that up by saying “Amazon has listened, and they have been very respectful, and they have backed off.”
There’s always a bit of culture clash that comes from major acquisitions like this, but it’s surprising to see Mackey being so direct and blunt about it with the supermarket chain’s employees. “I’m overall pleased with where we’re at,” he said, before moving on to the most remarkable line of this whole thing — and probably managing to anger both his wife and boss Jeff Bezos in the same breath. “Does that mean I love absolutely everything about Amazon? No. I don’t. I don’t love absolutely everything about my wife either, but on balance, I love like 98 percent. That’s a pretty good ratio based on my previous relationships.” He even got into some marriage advice, so check out Business Insider’s story for the full rundown.