The day in 2017 that Amazon.com Inc. announced it would buy Whole Foods Market, Jeff Wilke, then Amazon’s retail czar, tried to reassure a large group of employees gathered in a conference room above the high-end grocer’s flagship store in Austin that their lives wouldn’t be turned upside down by the deal. Then he referred to blueberries as a vegetable.
Executives from Whole Foods pounced. “Those aren’t vegetables,” cut in co-founder John Mackey. “So it begins,” added Walter Robb, Mackey’s former co-chief executive officer, before Mackey offered Wilke an out: “We’re learning,” he said.