Back in 1978, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey opened a small natural foods store in Austin, Texas, using money raised from friends and family. Not long after, he and his partner Renee Lawson were evicted from their apartment for storing inventory there, so they moved into the store and used a dishwasher hose for a shower. Two years later, they paired up with two fellow entrepreneurs and opened the first Whole Foods branch in Austin. By 1984, the company expanded out around Texas, then into New Orleans and California. Today, Whole Foods has over 470 locations, including locations in both Canada and the United Kingdom, and generates $16 billion in revenue.
Mackey has served as the leader the entire way, as chief executive from the founding up until 2010, and then as co-CEO, next to Walter Robb. In January of 2017, he became the company's sole chief executive. Despite years of dilution and stock sales, Mackey holds nearly one million shares, worth about $32 million. His wealth is no longer affected by his role, as he's elected to take a $1 dollar yearly salary without any bonus or stock grants. Despite the company's unbelievable growth, he's determined to stay on and continue to encourage the American public to make healthier eating choices. For Mackey, the company's mission is more important than any capital gains.
The past few years have been difficult for Whole Foods. The company's stock price topped out at $65 per share in late 2013 and then faced a big dip in the following years as other supermarkets began offering more natural and organic products, including Kroger, the nation's largest mainstream supermarket chain. Trader Joe's and Sprouts Farmers Market also dug into Whole Food's niche by offering cheaper, more "foodie-focused" stores. Walmart was ramping up again, and services such as Amazon and Blue Apron were changing shopping habits. The stocks plummeted to around $30 per share.
Mackey was very adamantly against "greedy" business leaders leading up to the company's $13.4 billion acquisition by Amazon. He's always wanted to do right by his employees and not see them exploited by opportunistic businessmen. However, the company's extended slide enabled vulture investors to buy up large chunks of stock and eventually steered them into the deal with Amazon. Under this new umbrella, Mackey intends to remain on as the company's CEO and continue to guide the company into the future. The new influx of cash from the deal has also skyrocketed Mackey's personal wealth to more than $75 million.