The Wall Street Journal
A Month on the Job at Whole Foods, CFO Could Get $4 Million




By Richard Teitelbaum
June 16, 2017


Whole Foods Market Inc.’s new finance chief, Keith Manbeck, may enjoy a short tenure in that role now that the grocery chain is set to be bought by Amazon.com for $13.7 billion. But it could be be a lucrative one.

If Mr.  Manbeck is terminated without cause or quits with “good reason”, he could be entitled to lump sum payments totaling $3,950,000 depending on how long he remains at Whole Foods. That is in addition to accelerated vesting of any stock or option grants the grocery chain made when it named him to the job last month, according to a Whole Foods filing.
And that number excludes $400,000 Whole Foods has agreed to pay for stock grants from a previous employer.

Mr. Manbeck previously served as senior vice president of digital finance, strategy management and business transformation at retailer Kohl’s Corp.
Whole Foods announced Mr. Manbeck’s appointment to the CFO position a little over a month ago, on May 10, at the same time that it named a chairwoman and five new independent directors.
Last year, Neuberger Berman Group LLC sent a letter to Whole Foods criticizing its management structure and performance, calling for it to consider strategic alternatives like a possible sale,  and asking that it name a new CFO, among other moves.

However, a portfolio manager at the money management firm criticized Mr.  Manbeck’s appointment last month, saying that he did not have sufficient experience for the post.
In April, activist investor Jana Partners  LLC announced it held an 8.8% position in Whole Foods.

Whether Mr. Manbeck remains at Whole Foods is an open question, but it would be unlikely for an  acquirer to keep two CFOs in place at the top. “The company that’s coming in is not going to employ two public company CFOs,” said Richard Dowd, co-founder of executive search firm Dowd Associates Inc.

However, given Mr. Manbeck’s background, Amazon.com might be able to place him in a position aside from the top finance job. “He could easily go and do something else for them,” Mr. Dowd said. “It could flow naturally.”

Amazon.com’s CFO, Brian Olsavsky, has served in that role since 2014.

A Whole Foods spokeswoman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Jana Partners declined to comment.


Press Contact:
Stephanie Bates
Dowd Associates Executive Search
(914) 251-1515  ext. 206
sbates@dowdassociates.com