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Aug. 12, 2022, 10:30 a.m. EDT

Whole Foods CEO says ‘socialists are taking over’ American institutions

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By Nicole Lyn Pesce

That’s Whole Foods founder and outgoing CEO John Mackey speaking during a Reason Magazine podcast posted this week. 

Mackey, a Houston-born multimillionaire who has criticized socialist policies for years, told host Nick Gillespie that his “twin values” are liberty and capitalism, and he believes they are being threatened. 

“You know, I’m a capitalist at heart,” Mackey, 68, said. “And I feel like, you know, with the way freedom of speech is today, the movement on gun control, a lot of the liberties that I’ve taken for granted most of my life, I think, are under threat.” 

Mackey has described his economic approach as “conscious capitalism,” or recognizing that there is a deeper purpose beyond profit, and believing that a business should create value for all of its major stakeholders — including customers, employees, investors, suppliers, the community and the environment. It’s all interconnected.

And Mackey, frequently described as a libertarian, has repeatedly called capitalism “the greatest thing humanity’s ever done, ” such as during a November 2020 interview where he described socialism as “trickle-up poverty.”

Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -3.01% bought the Austin, Texas–headquartered Whole Foods in 2017 for almost $14 billion , putting Mackey’s net worth at more than $75 million at the time. 

Whole Foods Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel is slated to replace Mackey as CEO of Whole Foods on Sept. 1. And Mackey said during Thursday’s podcast interview that, once he steps down, he plans to be even more vocal about his political and economic views, since he says he has been “muzzled” after writing a 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed that criticized the Affordable Care Act.

“That created a huge controversy, and my board basically shut me down. It’s like a father, they started attacking the child, and I was intimidated enough to shut up,” he said. “I was telling my leadership team, ‘Pretty soon, you’re going to be hearing about crazy John, who’s no longer muzzled, and you’re going to have to say, we can’t stop John from talking any longer.’ ”

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