Transparency always comes at a price. Normally the price is honesty and integrity, but sometimes it can come in the form of justice and wrath. While following along with Twitter today, Anil Dash of Six Apart provided a link to a post by Adam Kuban at the Serious Eats blog that comments on an article in the Wall Street Journal by David Kesmodel and John R. Wilke about comments in forums by “Rahobed”. Now that all the attribution is out of the way let’s discuss the story.
It seems that John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, has been out in the web acting as the pseudonymous Rahobed, a backward spelling of his wife’s name Deborah, and posting in forums and other places about Whole Foods and its competitor Wild Oats. I am always amazed at what can be found by using some backend tools to uncover the identity of commenters on blogs and those in forums. This seems to be the gist of his comments:
“Would Whole Foods buy OATS?” Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats’ stock symbol. “Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small.” Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock fell below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats management “clearly doesn’t know what it is doing …. OATS has no value and no future.”
Should he have used his own name? Perhaps commenting and conversing in forums was not the best way to achieve the conversation about his industry. I might suggest that instead of acting as a sock puppet and making comments and disparaging statements about rivals in forums, it may have been better for Mr. Mackey to have started a blog to discuss his thoughts on the industry, about his competitors or what he thought about his own haircut.
Yes, it is a fine line when dealing as a public company where any misstated item could come back to haunt a company. Statements made to manipulate stock prices is obviously illegal, and of course any slanderous comments or libelous articles still come with criminal penalties as well as civil. This can all be a difficult path, but a CEO of a corporation should not be out there on the Web doing this type of activity. For the obvious reason of the possibility of getting caught. The results now are for worse than if he had just started the John Mackey blog.