On March 6, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) ordered Whole Foods Market, Inc. (“Whole Foods”) to divest 32 Wild Oats Markets, Inc. (“Wild Oats”) stores and related assets, which will restore competition in 17 markets.
Whole Foods is the largest premium natural and organic supermarket chain in the United States and Wild Oats is its closest competitor.
On June 28, 2007, the FTC issued an administrative complaint against Whole Foods’ acquisition of Wild Oats that the deal would violate antitrust statutes. On November 21, 2008, the D.C. Circuit denied Whole Foods’ petition for rehearing en banc. Meanwhile, FTC administrative litigation against Whole Foods for permanent relief was proceeding.
The FTC is requiring Whole Foods to sell 32 Wild Oats stores and related Wild Oats intellectual property, including unrestricted rights to the “Wild Oats” brand, which retains significant name recognition and loyalty among consumers. The consent order requires the Whole Foods to sell these stores within six months.