Friday, February 16, 2007

Whole Foods Market CEO's salary

I recently resubscribed to Fast Company, and their Feb. 2007 issue reprinted this letter from John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods Market, to his employees:

The board of directors has voted to raise the salary cap from 14 times the average pay to 19 times the average pay, effective immediately.... We are raising the salary cap for one reason only--to make the compensation to our executives more competitive in the marketplace.... Everyone on the Whole Foods leadership team (except for me) has been approached multiple times by "headhunters" with job offers to leave Whole Foods and go to work for our competitors. Raising the salary cap has become necessary to help ensure the retention of our key leadership.... This increase to 19 times the average pay remains far, far below what the typical Fortune 500 company pays its executives.... The average CEO received 431 times as much as their average employee received in 2004, while Whole Foods' CEO (me) received only 14 times the average employee pay in cash compensation.

Most large companies also pay their executives large amounts of stock options in addition to large salaries and cash bonuses. The average corporation in the United States distributes 75% of their total stock options to only 5 top executives.... At Whole Foods, the exact opposite is true: The top 16 executives have received 7% of all the options granted while the other 93% of the options have been distributed throughout the entire company.

The second part of today's announcement has to do with my own compensation.... The tremendous success of Whole Foods Market has provided me with far more money than I ever dreamed I'd have and far more than is necessary for either my financial security or personal happiness.... I am now 53 years old and I have reached a place in my life where I no longer want to work for money, but simply for the joy of the work itself and to better answer the call to service that I feel so clearly in my own heart. Beginning on January 1, 2007, my salary will be reduced to $1, and I will no longer take any other cash compensation.... The intention of the board of directors is for Whole Foods Market to donate all of the future stock options I would be eligible to receive to our two company foundations.

One other important item to communicate to you is, in light of my decision to forego any future [pay], our board of directors has decided that Whole Foods Market will contribute $100,000 annually to a new Global Team Member Emergency Fund. This money will be distributed to team members throughout the company based on need.... The first $100,000 will be deposited on January 1, 2007, and requests will be considered after that date.

With much love,
John Mackey


christianne said...

Whoa. That. Is. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

So good to see "corporate" looking our for the corps! Thanks for passing this along, Al.

Anonymous said...

the "14 times" stuff is just public relations. The guy takes home millions a year by exercising stock options.

from Forbes:
New York -

Strange, but true: One company actually receives positive press for its executive compensation. Media reports frequently tout Whole Foods' pay policy, which caps the chief executive's salary and bonus at 14 times the average worker's pay. The Wall Street Journal,, Harvard Business Review and BusinessWeek have all mentioned the pay cap, generally in favorable terms.
But they all omitted one thing: stock options. Last year, CEO John Mackey's salary and cash bonus equaled $436,000, almost exactly 14 times the average worker's $32,000 salary. But he made $1.8 million exercising stock options, and received another $460,000 because of a company error that allowed stock options to expire unexercised. The grand total: $2.7 million. Another $4.4 million of options have vested, so he can exercise them if he wants.