New York

Brown Rice Capitalist – A Digression About Whole Foods

Brian Lehrer did an interesting interview with Nick Paumgarten, the author of last week’s New Yorker profile of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.

John Mackey, the co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market, refers to the company as his child – not just his creation but the thing on earth whose difficulties or downfall it pains him most to contemplate. He also sees himself as a “daddy” to his fifty-four thousand employees, who are known as “team members” but they may occasionally consider him to be more like a crazy uncle.

Mackey’s a complicated guy, an outspoken capitalist with strong anti-union views. Yet his company holds to a compelling salary formula:

Mackey, an outspoken critic of executive overcompensation, pays himself a dollar a year. No one at the company can have a salary more than nineteen times what the average team member makes. (On average, an S. & P. 500 C.E.O. makes three hundred and nineteen times what a production worker does.) Last year, the highest salary went to Walter Robb, the co-president and chief operating officer, who made just over four hundred thousand dollars (supplemented by a bonus and stock options). The average hourly wage was sixteen dollars and fifty cents.

To me, he comes across in the article more as the crazy uncle than the “daddy” … and occasionally, as the crazy uncle with a mean streak. What do you think?


James Allenby is the editor of Gowanus Lounge, bringing to his position a vast background on New York, and especially Brooklyn history, culture and lifestyle. Born and bred in the heart of "the County of Kings" James Allenby knows what it means to be a Brooklynite, and imparts this meaning at all times to his readers. Contact James at info(at)