Whole Foods, FTC reach Wild Oats deal; 13 stores to be sold

ByUSA Today
March 7, 2009, 9:43 AM

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market wfmi said Friday it will sell 13 stores to resolve the Federal Trade Commission's challenge against the grocer over its $565 million purchase of Wild Oats Markets.

Whole Foods is putting 12 Wild Oats stores and one Whole Foods store up for sale. The stores are located in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.

The company will also sell leases and assets for 19 Wild Oats stores that have already been closed.

In a statement, Whole Foods Chief Executive John Mackey said it will be "business as usual" in the 13 operating stores.

Federal regulators had challenged Whole Foods' 2007 acquisition of Wild Oats, worrying the deal would create a natural-food monopoly.

"We're getting relief in 17 (markets). It substantially restores the competition that was lost," said David Wales, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition.

Whole Foods sued the FTC in December, saying the regulator violated its due process rights in the dispute. Whole Foods then refiled the case in January in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington to get an expedited decision. The court later denied that motion.

At the time, Whole Foods said it was considering refiling the case or reframing its request for relief.

Once it gets approval from the FTC, expected before April 30, Whole Foods plans to take a non-cash charge of no more than $19 million for the sale of the stores, which recorded sales of $31 million in the fiscal first quarter of 2009.