Whole Foods CEO/blogger is so full of baloney it's coming out his alter ego's ears

Corporate executives blogging? Good, as in Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz burning the midnight oil to foster a back-and-forth about Linux with Linus Torvalds.

Corporate executives blogging under silly pseudonyms? Not so good, as you're about to see.

This morning The Wall Street Journal tells the story of John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, and "Rahodeb," a long-time poster to a Yahoo stock-market forum and Whole Foods fanboy.

Mackey and "Rahodeb"? One and the same. From the article:

For about eight years until last August, the company confirms, Mr. Mackey posted numerous messages on Yahoo Finance stock forums as Rahodeb. It's an anagram of Deborah, Mr. Mackey's wife's name. Rahodeb cheered Whole Foods' financial results, trumpeted his gains on the stock and bashed Wild Oats. Rahodeb even defended Mr. Mackey's haircut when another user poked fun at a photo in the annual report. "I like Mackey's haircut," Rahodeb said. "I think he looks cute!"

Mr. Mackey's online alter ego came to light in a document made public late Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission in its lawsuit seeking to block the Wild Oats takeover on antitrust grounds. Submitted under seal when the suit was filed in June, the filing included a quotation from the Yahoo site. An FTC footnote said, "As here, Mr. Mackey often posted to Internet sites pseudonymously, often using the name Rahodeb."

Wow. You might think this would be the time for one of the mealy-mouthed corporate apologies, maybe even a firing if Mackey isn't in tight with his board.

But you'd be wrong. Mackey's insisting he did nothing untoward; in fact, he's indignant over the mere suggestion.

Mr. Mackey declined to be interviewed. But he soon posted on the company Web site, saying that the FTC was quoting Rahodeb "to embarrass both me and Whole Foods." He also said: "I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it. Many people post on bulletin boards using pseudonyms." He said that "I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me."

Mr. Mackey's post continued: "The views articulated by rahodeb sometimes represent what I actually believed and sometimes they didn't. Sometimes I simply played 'devil's advocate' for the sheer fun of arguing. Anyone who knows me realizes that I frequently do this in person, too."

Someone needs to grab Mr. Mackey by the collar and slap a bit of reality into his foggy brain.

Here's what a grownup has to say about Rahodeb/Mackey:

For an executive to use a pseudonym to praise his company and stock "isn't per se unlawful, but it's dicey," said Harvey Pitt, a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman. Told of the Mackey posts, Mr. Pitt said, "It's clear that he is trying to influence people's views and the stock price, and if anything is inaccurate or selectively disclosed he would indeed be violating the law." He added that "at a minimum, it's bizarre and ill-advised, even if it isn't illegal."

Bizarre and ill-advised. I can't do any better than that summary.

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