Sunday, March 08, 2009

FTC finally settles with Whole Foods

The Federal Trade Commission gave up their years of fighting the Whole Food / Wild Oats merger, getting Whole Foods to agree to a face-saving deal to sell off thirty-two Wild Oats locations (some of which were already closed), and give up the Wild Oats name.
The FTC said the settlement substantially restores competition that was eliminated by Whole Foods' acquisition of Wild Oats, its closest rival.
It does nothing of the sort, of course. It's unlikely that there will be many bidders for the locations to be sold, given the current glut of retail space. It's possible somebody will buy the Wild Oats name, but in reality there never was a competition deficit in the space -- Whole Foods' most serious competitor was not Wild Oats, it was the growing organic aisles/sections in every supermarket chain in the country.

Someday I hope someone explains to me why the FTC went off on such a crusade against this particular merger -- a fairly small one in the great scheme of things, and one that had little impact on competition -- when they were rather quiescent on so many other larger deals in recent years.

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