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Whole Foods CEO Donates Half of Pay to Charity

The organic supermarket chain's controversial founder keeps his take-home pay low to keep staff morale high.

Whole Foods founder John Mackey has joked it may be 31 years before he publicly preaches more vegetables and less government-sponsored health care again, but he isn't wasting time sticking to his vow for less dough for the CEO. Though his compensation rose in 2009, the man who put organic on the mainstream map held down his pay, handing over his gains to the Global Animal Partnership, an animal welfare nonprofit.

Mackey – whom Inc. named an entrepreneur of the decade – slashed his salary to $1 in 2007, when company results disappointed investors. (He wrote in a letter to employees that he had "reached a place in my life where I no longer want to work for money but simply for the joy of the work itself.") He said he'd take no bonus or stock options, and announced proceeds from future stock options would go to charity.

For the 2009 fiscal year, Mackey's compensation was valued at $653,671, up from $33,831 in fiscal 2008, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents viewed by the Associated Press. He paid himself a salary of $1, and he took home no bonus, perks, or stock options.

The remaining $653,670 of his compensation was the balance of a previous incentive bonus plan that was frozen when he reduced his salary. He donated his after-tax profits of $379,636 to the animal charity.

Mackey has blogged that stratospheric CEO pay is bad for business. "Because of the yawning gap between the leaders and the led, employee morale is suffering, talented performers' loyalty is evaporating, and strategy and execution is suffering at American companies," he wrote.

Last updated: Jan 26, 2010


Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.

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