In a surprising turn of events, Amazon and Whole Foods Market announced this morning that they are merging; Amazon will acquire the high-end organic food company for approximately $13.7 billion cash. The deal is expected to close during the second half of this year. Whole Foods is retaining its CEO, cofounder John Mackey, and they will continue to operate their stores independently. The company's headquarters will remain in Austin, Texas.
Mackey emphasizes that this purchase is a partnership with Amazon, rather than any sort of takeover. "This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market's shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers," he said in the press release. It's Amazon's largest acquisition, after the company's purchase of Zappos in 2009 for around $1.2 billion.
Amazon has been contemplating this takeover for some time, as they have been moving more and more into the food sector with services like AmazonFresh. What's more, Amazon recently filed a patent for tech that monitors, redirects and even blocks searches for competitors' products while connected to their store WiFi. All of a sudden, that patent approval seems a lot more ominous, given that this move gives the online retail giant immediate brick-and-mortar access to a certain type of consumer with disposable income. While it's true that many companies Amazon has acquired have continued to operate independently, it's hard not to wonder whether we'll start seeing Kindles and Amazon Echos popping up at Whole Foods.