Whole Foods Hires Top Lobbyists to Smooth Merger

Posted December 17, 2008 at 12:08pm

An ongoing target of antitrust regulators, Whole Foods Inc., is enlisting former Clinton White House lawyer Lanny Davis and other prominent Democratic lobbyists to help finalize its merger with a rival grocery store chain.

According to Senate lobbying records, Whole Foods brought on Davis’ firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, on Tuesday. In mid-November, the chain hired the Glover Park Group, a shop headed by former Clinton administration staffers Joe Lockhart and Joel Johnson.

The hiring of Davis and other prominent Democratic hired guns comes as the high-end grocer attempts to smooth the remaining steps of its union with Wild Oats, another grocery chain. The companies announced the merger more than a year ago, but the deal is being challenged by the Federal Trade Commission over concerns that Whole Foods would unfairly dominate the “premium natural and organic supermarket” sector.

Without naming the Whole Foods case by name, eight Senators last week signed a letter to FTC Chairman William Kovacic asking the agency to reconsider a procedural process that the company claims will unfairly torpedo the deal.

“Whole Foods did not ask Congress to take sides in the FTC case to block the merger of Whole Foods and Wild Oats, but rather to express concern about the FTC’s procedural unfairness toward Whole Foods,” Davis said in a statement. “We share the Senators’ concern that the new rule of the FTC could be just as unfair to others as the FTC has been unfair to Whole Foods.”