CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

Whole Foods founder John Mackey discusses the Amazon culture clash

October 6, 2020, 10:42 AM UTC

This is the web version of CEO Daily. To get it delivered to your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning.

Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey was Ellen McGirt’s and my guest this week on the podcast Leadership Next. We invited him because he is the founder of the conscious capitalism movement, which is dedicated to the belief that every business “has the potential for a higher purpose beyond just maximizing profits” and has a responsibility “to all the stakeholders, not just investors.” You can listen to the full episode here: Apple/Spotify.

I couldn’t resist asking him about his 2017 merger with Amazon, because the two companies were kind of Mars and Venus when it came to corporate cultures. The Harvard Business Review described it as a difference between Amazon’s “tight culture”—valuing consistency and routine—and Whole Foods’ “loose culture” blending idealism and high margins. Culture clash, of course, has caused many a merger to end up on the rocks—including the storied combination of Fortune’s former owner Time Inc. with AOL. (Google “worst mergers in history” for detail.)

Here’s what Mackey had to say on the topic:

“Amazon has some different values than Whole Foods, but they haven’t tried to jam Amazon culture down our throat…It’s like a marriage. You change in a marriage. And you don’t love everything about your spouse. I’m happily married for 30 years, my wife has changed me, I love my wife, but I don’t love everything about my wife. I don’t love everything about Amazon. I love most things about Amazon. But I don’t love everything about Amazon.”

When I asked Mackey if he considered Jeff Bezos to be a “conscious capitalist,” he replied:

“The first thing you learn if you are going to be a conscious leader is you don’t spend a lot of time judging other people’s consciousness.”

And speaking of culture, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon penned a piece for The Dialogue Project, which we are publishing on Fortune.com this morning, calling for more “honest, open conversations” to strengthen our communities and our nation. He said the U.S. “seems more divided than ever on how to approach everything from climate change to the economy.” Solving those problems will require seeing “past our differences” and listening “intently”; “engaging in a difficult, but respectful, dialogue”; and “hearing, and really thinking about, another opinion more than just thinking about how to refute what they said or just giving your own.”

Amen to that, brother. More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Trump home

The world's most powerful COVID-19 carrier returned home last night, despite still being in the infectious stage of the disease, and ahead of the all-important second week of the infection where patients often take a turn for the worse. President Trump returned to the White House by helicopter, then took his mask off for photos. He insists he will participate in the next scheduled debate on Oct. 15. Politico

Debt cancellation

World Bank president David Malpass has called on investors to prepare to grant some form of debt relief for countries that may find themselves in a debt crisis, thanks to the pandemic. Malpass: "It is evident that some countries are unable to repay the debt they have taken on. We must, therefore, also reduce the debt level. This can be called debt relief or cancellation." Al Jazeera

European surveillance

The EU's highest court has told the bloc's countries to fix laws that force telecoms providers to store their customers' traffic and location data, for national-security purposes. The Court of Justice of the EU ruled that such laws are illegal if the data retention is "general and indiscriminate." This could be a blow to the U.K., one of the countries whose data-retention law was ruled illegal today—yes, it's leaving the EU, but it needs to convince the EU that its privacy laws are "adequate" if British companies are going to continue processing the personal data of European customers. Fortune

McAfee indictment

John McAfee has been indicted for tax evasion in the U.S. The highly colorful antivirus magnate was arrested in Spain and faces extradition. Prosecutors say he didn't file any taxes for the four years from 2014 to 2018, even though he earned millions from consulting work, speaking engagements, selling the rights to his life story, and promoting cryptocurrencies. CNN

AROUND THE WATER COOLER

Blue wave

What if, this November, the Democrats won the White House and took control of Congress? According to Goldman Sachs, the result would be a boost to the U.S. and global economy early next year. Goldman chief economic Jan Hatzius said in a note yesterday that the benefits of a Biden stimulus package would outweigh his planned increase in corporate taxes. Fortune

Movie delays

More bad news for the cinema industry: Denis Villeneuve's Dune has become the latest planned-for-this-year blockbuster to be pushed back a year, much like Black Widow, No Time to Die, and The Batman. Not hard to see why—the release of Tenet did not go well and the studios are scared about seeing other hotly anticipated movies flopping. The Verge

COVID numbers

The World Health Organization estimates that one in 10 people around the world has already had the novel coronavirus. If true, that would amount to 800 million people, whereas the current official count is 35 million. However, it would still mean the vast majority of people have not been infected yet, and remain potentially vulnerable. BBC

Holiday travel

When's the best time to book holiday travel this year, if at all? Some suggest now, for trips in December, but also to keep an eye on local health guidelines that could change at any moment. The Points Guy founder Brian Kelly: "If you’re planning to fly home for the holidays, or are still hoping to take your annual holiday season vacation, know that you’ll need to do way more research than you normally would—and take more risks." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.