Meet the 'Right-Wing Hippie' Who Runs Whole Foods

No meat for John Mackey; no unions, either

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 28, 2009 4:00 PM CST

(Newser) – John Mackey is a libertarian, an adherent of Ayn Rand, a skeptic about climate change, a vegan, and the CEO of Whole Foods. The company does $8 billion in annual sales, but Mackey flies commercial and drives a Civic hybrid. Nick Paumgarten investigates this walking contradiction, described by a business associate as "the guy who, at these sort of inflection points that every business faces, seems to show up with ideas that are original and thoughtful and attuned to the moment."

Mackey’s op-ed tirade against socialized medicine and for personal responsibility captured attention, Paumgarten writes in the New Yorker. Sure, his company provides good benefits and a consistently well-rated work environment, but “it sometimes sounds as if he believed that, if every company had him at the helm, there would be no need for unions or health-care reform, and that therefore every company should have someone like him, and that therefore there should be no unions or health-care reform,” Paumgarten writes. “The logic is as sound as the presumption is preposterous.”

Protesters outside a Whole Foods store in West Hollywood.
Protesters outside a Whole Foods store in West Hollywood.   (AP Photo)
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.   (AP Photo)
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His belief in the power of the individual is such that blame falls on individuals, too. In his view, it tends to be the fault of the unhealthy or fat person that he or she is unhealthy or fat. People just need to eat better.
- Nick Paumgarten, on John Mackey

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