Good morning again.
Moments after we hit send on Friday’s Data Sheet, Amazon.com announced its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods. This is a stunning, fascinating, and exciting development, especially for someone who cut his teeth reporting in Silicon Valley by covering the quick rise and ignominious fall of online grocer Webvan during the dot-com bubble of 1999-2000.
Amazon says it will operate Whole Foods independently, much the way it has treated quirky shoe merchant Zappos in the eight years it has owned it. Quirky, by the way, describes Whole Foods and its CEO, John Mackey, to a tee. I was in the audience in San Diego in May at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference when Beth Kowitt interviewed him. He’s as forceful and opinionated as Jeff Bezos, his new boss as he’ll stay on.
Amazon has coveted the grocery business for years, with limited success. It also has coveted anything Walmart (WMT) has. The plunging stocks of grocers this morning shows that Amazon strikes fear wherever it goes just as Walmart, whose stock also is down, once did. Amazon gets more than one of the finest, if struggling, U.S. grocers, of course. It gets a retailer with a physical footprint in 460 stores in North America and the United Kingdom. This will help with sales of Amazon gizmos, books and whatever else it tries to sell.
One last thought … Jeff Bezos is becoming a lot like the Warren Buffett of the information age. That this deal is friendly-Whole Foods (WFM) was under attack by activist investors-shows that Mackey saw value in being owned by Amazon, just as family-owned industrial concerns for years gladly sold to Buffett. Bezos has shown creativity and staying power as owner of The Washington Post. Now he’s a grocer too. What’s next?
Oh, and what a great conversation point for Amazon’s (AMZN) top retail executive, Jeff Wilke, when I interview him at Brainstorm Tech in Aspen next month!
Again, have a great weekend.