Jana Sells Stake in Whole Foods
New York-based activist investment firm Jana Partners has sold its stake in natural grocer Whole Foods Market, reaping a profit of more than $300 million, following its purchase of the second-largest share in March, Bloomberg has reported.
The firm – whose success could empower other investors to take more of an activist role with grocers and CPGs – sold the 26 million shares over the past month for a combined $1.1 billion. According to Bloomberg, it began to sell the stock three days after Amazon.com’s June 16 announcement that it intends to purchase the Austin, Texas-based grocer for $13.7 billion, which itself is believed to have resulted from the firm’s call for a shakeup.
In April, Jana announced that it had acquired the shares because they're “undervalued and represent an attractive investment opportunity,” as reported in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm, which teamed with several retail veterans and grocery experts, said it intended to hold discussions with Whole Foods’ board and management regarding a number of topics, from changing the makeup of the board and management to advancing brand development and addressing deficiencies in areas such as customer loyalty, analytics, and other digital and technological capabilities.
Following the calls for change, Whole Foods unveiled an “accelerated path” for growth, supported by category management and pricing initiatives, enhanced marketing and Affinity programs, and “disciplined organic growth.” About two weeks later, Seattle-based Amazon revealed its bid for the grocer.