Investment firm Jana Partners LLC has sold its entire stake in Austin-based Whole Foods Market just months after purchasing it, a move that is estimated to have netted the firm hundreds of millions of dollars.
Jana Partners’ sell-off comes on the heels of Whole Foods agreeing to a $13.7 billion buyout deal with Amazon.com.
Before the deal with Amazon was announced on June 16, Jana Partners had publicly pressured Whole Foods to make changes and possibly look at a buyout or merger deal. Jana Partners announced in April that it had purchased a more than 8 percent stake in the company.
Jana Partners, which originally bought shares at a range of $29.14 per share to $31.80 per share between Feb. 9 and April 10, sold its shares at a range of $41.66 per share to $43.51 per share from June 19 to July 18, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Whole Foods’ shares closed at $41.76 on Wednesday.
Securities filings show Jana Partners acquired its shares at an aggregated purchase price of $794.5 million. It sold them for roughly $1.092 billion, meaning Jana Partners’ netted an estimated $298.1 million from the purchase and subsequent sale of its organizational holdings.
Jana Partners could not be immediately reached for comment.
In an April filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Jana Partners had indicated it wanted significant changes from Whole Foods, which before the deal had closed several underperforming stores as it struggled to fend off competitors and shed its high-priced reputation.
In the filing, Jana Partners said it wanted Whole Foods to address “core operating deficiencies in areas including customer loyalty and analytics … improving in-store execution, including labor scheduling and management … evaluating opportunities to re-engineer the issuer’s suboptimal and cost-disadvantaged grocery procurement and distribution strategy, such as by internalizing distribution or pursuing other hybrid strategies” and “initiating a review of strategic alternatives particularly in light of the issuer’s apparent unwillingness to engage in discussions with third parties regarding such alternatives.”
Whole Foods replaced almost half of its board of directors in May while promising to make changes.
In April, the company's representatives contacted Amazon after viewing media reports that Amazon had previously looked at acquiring the grocer. Amazon eventually offered Whole Foods $41 per share to buy the company, and after Whole Foods countered with a $45 per share price, the two companies settled on the $42 per share amount.
In an interview with Texas Monthly published in June, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey called Jana Partners “greedy bastards” for “putting a bunch of propaganda out there, trying to destroy my reputation and the reputation of Whole Foods, because it’s in their self-interest to do so.”
Whole Foods was co-founded in 1978 by Mackey, who will remain at the head of the company after the deal closes. The company operates more than 450 stores in multiple countries and employs about 87,000 people.
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