Supermarket CEO Resigns After Child-Prostitution Arrest
Michael Gilliland says he's innocent, but steps down anyway
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2011 6:10 AM CST
Michael Gilliland, CEO of Sunflower Farmers Market, resigned from the company yesterday after being arrested for child prostitution.    (Phoenix Police Department)

(Newser) – The founder and CEO of a 32-store chain of natural foods grocery stores located around the Southwest stepped down yesterday after being arrested on suspicion of felony child prostitution in Phoenix on Thursday, reports the Arizona Republic. Police said Sunflower Market CEO Michael C. Gilliland (also the founder of Wild Oats) went to a hotel, where he expected to pay to have sex with an underage girl he had met online. Of course, she wasn't actually an underage girl: He was arrested as part of a week-long operation that saw eight people apprehended.

Gilliland told the company that he is innocent, but that he was resigning "so that his personal affairs will not affect" Sunflower. The grocery store's sales grew 50% over the year prior in 2009, reaching $300 million, and the company said that its expansion plans would not be affected by the change in management.