For months, Whole Foods Market and its legal team have waged a very public battle against the Federal Trade Commission’s charges that the high-end grocer’s 2007 merger with Wild Oats Markets violated antitrust laws. The court fight started in June 2007 when FTC lawyers first tried to prevent the merger by filing suit in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Then, last October, Whole Foods raised the stakes by unleashing lobbying and media campaigns against the FTC. After all of that, this morning’s announcement that Whole Foods has agreed to settle with the FTC raises an obvious question: Why?
Decherd partner Paul Denis, who has represented Whole Foods since 2007 in defending the merger, says it came down to money, and Whole Foods also just wanted to move on. “This is a very expensive process,” he says, adding that Whole Foods “thought if made sense to try to eliminate that cash burden. ” In December, Whole Foods said it had spent $16 million on attorney and expert fees since 2007. Asked whether allocating additional resources to the public fight against the FTC was worth it for his client, Denis says, “You do what you have to defend yourself. …You can never ask yourself is it worth it. ”