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09/30/2021

Whole Foods co-founder, CEO John Mackey to retire

Mackey says it's time to pass the torch 'to the next generation of leadership' and names Jason Buechel as his successor
Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey will retire next year. (Photo: Whole Foods Market)

The next evolution of Whole Foods Market has arrived.

The company's co-founder and CEO John Mackey announced Thursday that he is retiring, and taking his place as CEO will be chief operating officer Jason Buechel.

In an emotional letter posted on the company's website, Mackey said it's "time to begin to transition my role as CEO to the next generation of leadership. I have thought long and hard about this, and while it is still surreal to write, I have decided to retire on Sept. 1, 2022."

The natural foods retailer, co-founded 43 years ago by Mackey in Austin, Texas, has been credited with revolutionizing the grocery industry with its mission-based food retail business model. The grocer, which last year had annual sales of more than US$16 billion, aims to win by focusing on hyper-local store design and merchandising, doubling down on its bottom-up leadership style, and continuing to expand its 528-store footprint.

"As a co-founder of Whole Foods, I’ve often explained my relationship to the company with a parent-child metaphor," Mackey said. "As a parent, I have always loved Whole Foods with all my heart. I have done my best to instill strong values, a clear sense of higher purpose beyond profits, and a loving culture that allows the company and all our interdependent stakeholders to flourish. All parents reach a time when they must let go and trust that the values imparted will live on within their children.  That time has nearly come for me and for Whole Foods."

In the letter, Mackey describes incoming CEO Buechel as "a true servant leader and champion of Whole Foods’ culture and values, and he will lead the company into the future. Jason was my personal choice to replace me as the CEO and I’m pleased Amazon leadership agreed that he is the right person for the role."

Buechel joined Whole Foods in 2013 as global VP and chief information officer and was promoted in 2015 to EVP before being named COO in 2019. In addition to being responsible for the operations of all Whole Foods stores and facilities, he also currently oversees technology, supply chain and distribution, and Team Member Services. 

A version of this article appeared at ProgressiveGrocer.com.