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Grist's Tom Philpott Skewers John Mackey and Whole Foods

Under pressure from a variety of shareholders, Whole Foods founder John Mackey has surrendered his position on his company’s board of directors. He will continue serving as CEO, but will no longer be able to vote on board-level decisions.

Just before the announcement, The New Yorker ran a long and entertaining profile of Mackey by Nick Paumgarten. The two events—the publication of the New Yorker piece, quickly followed by Mackey’s board resignation—may not be coincidental. in recent years, buffeted by self-generated controversy, Mackey has sought to exert careful control over his media image. He makes a game effort with Paumagarten. “I no longer drink alcohol around journalists,” Mackey tells him. He adds: “I am not going to talk about my sex life,”  even though Paumagarten had not asked.

Despite those undoubtedly wise precautions, Mackey emerges from Paumgarten’s gentle piece as a bit of a nut.

We see him engaging in new-age babble, declaring “I am self-actualizing myself” and subjecting himself to something called “the Course.” We find him behaving like a jerk, alienating underlings (“executive-retreat volleyball games had to be scrapped, owing to Mackey’s intensity and his ill-disguised scorn for less capable teammates”) and sending fellow executives into grumpy exile. Mostly, we find him justifying his Randian faith in hyper-capitalism, as zealous as a Christian’s belief in the Resurrection.

In green circles, the money shot is probably the bit about climate change—it turns out the founder of the iconic “certified organic supermarket” is a bit of a denier (don’t tell Paumgarten’s colleague Michael Specter).