Monday, March 2, 2009

Daily Memo - Whole Foods Market - FTC Settlement Deal Watch - Countdown to March 6

It's well-past the end of the business day today, Monday, March 2, and no announcement has come from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Whole Foods Market, Inc. on if the two parties have reached a settlement agreement to the FTC v. Whole Foods Market, Inc. legal case, in which the FTC is attempting to overturn the 2007 friendly acquisition by Whole Foods of Wild Oats Markets, Inc.

The two parties resumed talks today we're told, following taking the weekend off. Our sources say no settlement agreement has been reached yet.

The FTC has halted its legal challenge against the deal until Friday, March 6 so that the two parties can negotiate a settlement to the long-running FTC challenge.

However, the FTC has set April 6, 2009 as the start date for an administrative trial in which an FTC-appointed Administrative Law Judge will hear arguments on the case from lawyers from Whole Foods Market, Inc. and the FTC. After the hearing portion of the trial is over the Administrative Law Judge will make a ruling on the status of the merger.

The FTC can extend its March 6 halt of legal proceedings if it feels settlement talks between the regulator and Whole Foods are moving in a positive direction and more time is needed to complete the negotiations.

But both the March 6 deadline and the April 6 trial date are fast-looming

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo's (NSFM) Whole Foods - FTC countdown to March 6 series:

>Read our Friday, February 27 Daily Memo at the link: [Daily Memo: Whole Foods Market - FTC Settlement Deal Watch - Countdown to March 6.]

>Read our Thursday, February 26 Daily Memo at the link: [Daily Memo: Whole Foods Market - FTC Settlement Deal Watch - 9 Days to March 6.]

>Read our Wednesday, February 25 Daily Memo at the link: [Daily Memo: Whole Foods Market - FTC Settlement Deal Watch - 10 Days to March 6. There's a bibliography of recent posts in Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) at the bottom of this column as well.]

Whole Foods Market, Inc. - News & Notes

>Read a recent analysis (February 22, 2009) we did on Whole Foods' first quarter 2009 financial performance and related issues here: [Retail Memo: The 'Whole Analysis' - Whole Foods Market Inc's First Quarter Financials, FTC v. Whole Foods...The Natural Grocer At Home and Abroad.]

Whole Foods Market in the Media

>In the February 22 story linked above we included some analysis about Whole Foods' operations in the United Kingdom. The UK trade publication Retail Week has a story today about Whole Foods Market-UK. You can read it at the link here: Anybody remember Whole Foods Market?

>The Chicago Tribune newspaper has now joined Natural~Specialty Foods Memo's (NSFM) about 20-month argument that the FTC's attempt to overturn the 2007 friendly acquisition of Wild Oats by Whole Foods Market, Inc. is folly. Here is just one of the many pieces in which we've made that argument: [Retail Memo: Natural-Organic Foods and U.S. Retail Marketplace Realities; Why the FTC's Case Against the Whole Foods-Wild Oats Merger is Pure Folly.]

In the Saturday, February 28, 2009 story the Chicago Tribune writer says: "So here's a bit of unsolicited advice for the FTC: Quit obsessing over Whole Foods Market's acquisition of Wild Oats Markets." Read the entire piece here: FTC's imagined threat. [See, we've been right all along.]

>Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market opened a new store today in the Lakewood section of Dallas, Texas. covered and writes about the store opening today here: Whole Foods opens Lakewood location.

>As part of its recent strategic emphasis on value, Whole Foods is focusing on merchandising and promoting products for cooking at home, which millions more U.S. consumers are doing in the current economic recession than they were just a year ago. One of the programs within this cooking at home promotional emphasis for Whole Foods is its new seasonal kitchen program. The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal writes about the program here: A return to home cooking.

New FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz formal announcement today

We first reported in this February 24, 2009 piece [Retail Memo - Breaking: FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz Odds On Favorite to Be Named Chairman; Positive Development For Whole Foods' Settlement Talks] that FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz was a lock to become the new chairman of the federal regulatory agency responsible for competition, antitrust regulation and consumer protection.

We said President Obama would name Leibowitz FTC Chairman by last Friday, February 27. As we reported On Friday in this piece[ Daily Memo: Whole Foods Market - FTC Settlement Deal Watch - Countdown to March 6][See, Leibowitz in as new chairman] the White House confirmed on Friday that Mr. Leibowitz was indeed the President's choice to head the FTC.

The White House made its formal, public announcement regarding Jon Leibowitz being named by the President to head the FTC today. Note: since Mr. Leibowitz is already an FTC Commissioner, he need not go through the Senate confirmation process as would be the case for a an outside presidential appointee the the position.

Here's the Washington Post's report today: FTC's Lone Democrat Named as New Chairman.

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