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Whole Foods finally acquires Wild Oats after prolonged legal challenge

BY Adam Kraemer

AUSTIN, Texas Whole Foods Market has acquired Wild Oats Markets for $565 million after the Federal Trade Commission failed to block the transaction on concerns that it would reduce competition, Bloomberg reported.

About 97 percent of investors have tendered their shares in favor of the deal, including 84 percent delivered by the end of the day yesterday, Austin-based Whole Foods said in a statement. Completion of the transaction will occur today, spokeswoman Kate Lowery said yesterday in an interview.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman on Aug. 16 denied the FTC’s bid to block the acquisition, saying it did not not violate any antitrust laws. An appeals court last week upheld the judge’s decision, refusing the government’s request that the decision be put on hold.

Whole Foods agreed to buy Wild Oats in February for $18.50 per share. The FTC sued to block the transaction in June, claiming consumers would be hurt by higher prices and decreased competition.

Whole Foods extended the date of its tender offer to Wild Oats shareholders several times, most recently to yesterday, as the company waited for regulatory and legal permission to complete the offer.

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Campbell appoints VP of corporate strategy

BY Tara Smith

CAMDEN, N.J. Campbell Soup Company, branded convenience food products, has appointed Kirk Elliott as its vice president for corporate strategy, making him responsible for the company’s strategic planning process and advancing strategic initiatives.

Elliott, who has more than 20 years of experience in strategy, business development, and line management, joins Campbell from Elliott Oriental Medicine in San Diego, a company he founded in 2005. Before that, he was at Nabisco International for eight years in business development, planning and line management. His experience with Nabisco culminated to managing director, Nabisco Taiwan, Hong Kong & Asia Export.

Elliott also will oversee the company’s licensing program and will report to Carl Johnson, Campbell’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer.

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Court upholds Judge’s ruling, opts not to delay Whole Foods/Wild Oats deal

BY Adam Kraemer

WASHINGTON A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled in favor of Whole Foods Market’s bid to buy rival organic grocer Wild Oats Markets, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request by the Federal Trade Commission to delay the $565 million sale pending the outcome of an appeal. Whole Foods lawyers argued that such a ruling would have killed the deal.

On Friday, Aug. 17, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman refused to block the transaction, a decision that the FTC appealed before noon the following Monday. They claimed that if the two companies combine, it would result in less competition and higher prices for premium and organic food.

The appeals court, in a brief ruling, agreed that the FTC “raised some questions” about the deal, but the judges said the agency had not proven that Friedman’s decision was flawed.

Representatives from the FTC did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Whole Foods officials have said they would move at the first opportunity to close the deal. The company’s tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of Wild Oats stock expires Monday.

“We are pleased to have cleared what we expect to be our last legal hurdle,” Whole Foods chairman and chief executive officer John Mackey said in a statement. “We look forward to closing this merger and believe the synergies gained from this combination will create long-term value for our customers, vendors and shareholders as well as exciting opportunities for our new and existing team members.”

The appeals court agreed Monday to delay the transaction so that it could consider additional information. Its ruling Thursday came just hours after the FTC was expected to file its final brief in the case, according to the Associated Press.

Whole Foods has completed 18 successful acquisitions in the past 27 years. The company’s Web site states that approximately 25 percent of its current sales stem from stores it has acquired and 75 percent from those it has opened.

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