Burkle Has an Appetite for Whole Foods


Yucaipa Cos. founder Ron Burkle, best known for his investments in supermarkets, has taken a bite out of troubled organic grocer Whole Foods Market Inc., which is facing a Federal Trade Commission challenge to its 2007 purchase of rival Wild Oats Markets Inc.

Based on Yucaipa’s 13D filing with Securities and Exchange Commission, the firm is preparing for an activist position. Yucaipa began accruing shares in late November and now has purchased 9.81 million shares, giving it a 7 percent stake in the company and making it the fourth-largest shareholder.

The filing noted that Yucaipa sees opportunities for the company to improve operations and its pricing while maintaining its high-quality product offering. However, the filing offers scant details as to how Whole Foods might improve operations or pricing. Yucaipa said it plans to directly communicate with the board and reserves the right to contact other shareholders. Buried deeper in the filing is reference to a possible push for a sale of the company.

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