In Whole Foods Market lore, there’s a company campfire store about John Mackey sending the original founder/CEO of Wild Oats the board game RISK along with a feisty note. Given their recent merger announcement, it seems apropos to share this snippet of a story.
At one point in the 1990s, Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats were fierce rivals. Both were upstarts in the staid supermarket industry and both began their existence in hippie hotbeds—Whole Foods in Austin, TX and Wild Oats in Boulder, CO.
As the company campfire story goes, Mike Gilliland (founder and former CEO of Wild Oats) once referred to John Mackey as “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap, the CEO notorious for cutting cuts and slashing jobs by any means necessary. Mackey didn’t take that swipe at his character too well.
In retaliation, Mackey sent Gilliland the board game RISK, which is a game of world domination. Attached to the game was a note from Mackey that read, “Forewarned is forearmed.” The note was signed “Chainsaw John Mackey.”