2017-06-16 09:45:02
Amazon to Buy Whole Foods in $13.7 Billion Deal

Amazon said on Friday that it had agreed to buy the upscale supermarket chain Whole Foods for $13.4 billion, in the online retailer’s latest push into the grocery business.

The deal comes as the high-end grocer has been trying to fend off pressure from activist shareholders frustrated by a sluggish stock price.

Whole Foods last month unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its board, replacing five directors, naming a new chairwoman and bringing in a new chief financial officer. It also laid out plans to improve operations and cut costs.

Amazon has designs on expanding beyond online retail into physical stores. The company is slowly building a fleet of outlets, and much attention has been focused on its grocery store dreams. It has already made an initial push through AmazonFresh, its grocery delivery service.

The e-commerce giant has been testing a variety of other retail concepts. It has opened a convenience store that does not need cashiers, and has explored another grocery store concept that could serve walk-in customers and act as a hub for home deliveries.

Under the terms of the proposed deal, Amazon would pay $42 a share, a 27 percent premium to Thursday’s closing price.

Whole Foods has been feeling the heat to bolster its stock for more than a year.

John Mackey, a founder, took over as sole chief executive last year, in a bid to revive the company. Money managers, unhappy with the pace of the turnaround effort, have pushed for more, taking aim at the board, its grocery offerings and its pricey real estate holdings.

The activist hedge fund Jana Partners upped the pressure in April, announcing that it had become the second-biggest shareholder in Whole Foods. Almost immediately, the stock spiked.

In a defensive posture, Whole Foods, a few weeks later, revamped its board and replaced its chief financial officer. Gabrielle Sulzberger, a private equity executive, was named the company’s chairwoman. Ms. Sulzberger is married to Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the chairman and publisher of The New York Times.