Rumors of Whole Foods approaching a possible sale have stirred up yet again after activist investor Jana Partners LLC grabbed up a nearly 9 percent stake in the company. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Jana Partners has already begun pushing for a possible sale, as well as a potential shakeup of the retailer’s Board of Directors.
According to a regulatory filing posted Monday, Jana Partners now has an 8.8 percent stake in Whole Foods, which the investor says it may leverage to help it better compete with its rivals, shift its board, and as WSJ puts it, find out how much a potential bidder might be willing to pay. The firm will also take another look at Whole Foods’ new small-store format, 365.
Following the move, Whole Foods shares gained as much as 12 percent, reaching $34.66. According to Bloomberg, this is the biggest jump since November 2014.
A Whole Foods spokeswoman shared with WSJ that the company “is open to the views and opinions of all of our shareholders,” adding, “we are committed to driving value for all Whole Foods Market shareholders and will continue to act to achieve this important objective.”
In what the source says could be a signal that Jana is willing to get aggressive in its approach to shake up the retailer, Jana has already lined up potential new board nominees, all of which it named in the SEC filing. These candidates include industry analyst Meredith Adler, former Harris Teeter CEO Thomas Dickson, GAP turnaround orchestrater Glenn Murphy, entrepreneur Mark Bittman, and former CMO for Safeway Diane Dietz—who was part of Jana’s shakeup of Safeway in 2013.
As we’ve previously explored on our sister website, AndNowUKnow, there has been much speculation over whether or not Whole Foods will sell in recent months, with many naming Kroger and Amazon as a possible buyers. Some analysts, however, think Whole Foods may end up employing the “poison pill” method—a mechanism used by public companies to prevent hostile takeovers.
After Monday’s increase in share value, Whole Foods’ market cap has now hit around $11 billion.