FTC Approves Whole Foods Markets Divestiture of Three Stores and Wild Oats Intellectual Property, Denies Sale of Wild Oats Intellectual Property to Topco Associates; FTC Comments on Information Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy in Response

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FTC Approves Whole Foods Market’s Divestiture of Three Stores and Wild Oats Intellectual Property, Denies Sale of Wild Oats Intellectual Property to Topco Associates

The Federal Trade Commission has acted upon several applications filed by the Whole Foods Divestiture Trustee to sell assets under a March 5, 2009 consent order designed to help restore the competition lost by Whole Foods Market Inc.’s 2007 acquisition of Wild Oats Market, Inc. The Trustee’s applications proposed to sell three former Whole Foods stores, as well as the Wild Oats and Alfalfa’s brand names. Alfalfa’s is a chain that Wild Oats previously bought but did not re-brand under its own name.

Under the 2009 consent order, the FTC appointed The Food Partners as the Divestiture Trustee to divest certain Wild Oats stores and the intellectual property associated with the Wild Oats brand, including the use of the Wild Oats and Alfalfa’s names. The Divestiture Trustee requested FTC approval to sell the former Wild Oats stores in Kansas City, Missouri, to Healthy Investments, LLC; in Boulder, in Colorado, to A-M Holdings, LLC; and in Portland, Maine to Trader Joe’s East. The FTC has now approved the sale of each store to the respective acquirer.

The Divestiture Trustee also requested approval to sell the Wild Oats’ intellectual property to Topco Associates LLC or Luberski, Inc., and to sell the Alfalfa’s Markets’ intellectual property to A-M or Topco. The FTC has now approved the sale of the Wild Oats’ intellectual property to Luberski, Inc., and the Alfalfa’s Markets’ intellectual property to A-M Holdings, and denied the sale of the Wild Oats and Alfalfa’s intellectual property to Topco.

The FTC vote approving each proposed divestiture and denying the sale of the Wild Oats and Alfalfa’s intellectual property to Topco was 3-0-2, with Commissioner Edith Ramirez not participating and Commissioner Julie Brill not participating. (FTC Docket No. 9324; the staff contact is Daniel P. Ducore, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2526; see press release dated March 6, 2009, at: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/wholefoods.shtm.)

FTC Comments on Information Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy in Response to Department of Commerce Inquiry

The Federal Trade Commission submitted a written comment on information privacy and innovation in the Internet economy in a comment submitted to the Department of Commerce, which has requested public comment as part of an inquiry on the subject.

The FTC comment emphasizes that online privacy has been one of the agency’s highest consumer protection priorities for more than a decade, and that failure to adequately protect personal data on the Internet could undermine the benefits the Internet has to offer by decreasing consumer confidence in online services. The comment highlights the different components of the FTC’s privacy program – including almost 30 law enforcement cases challenging business practices that allegedly failed to adequately secure consumers’ personal information, efforts to educate consumers and businesses about privacy and online security, policy initiatives such as promoting self-regulation in online behavioral advertising, and the FTC’s participation in international privacy initiatives.

The comment also describes a series of privacy roundtables hosted by the FTC and outlines some of the major themes that emerged from the roundtable discussions. As part of the FTC’s ongoing effort to re-examine approaches to privacy, the agency plans to publish privacy proposals later this year for public comment.

The Commission vote approving the comment was 5-0.

Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s website at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

(FYI 25.2.2010.wpd)

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