The Commission sought a federal court temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction, and issued an administrative complaint, against Whole Food Market, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of its chief rival, Wild Oats Markets, Inc. According to the complaint, the approximately $670 million deal raised competition problems in 21 local markets where Whole Foods and Wild Oats both operated stores and were each other’s closest competitors among premium national and organic supermarkets. The district court granted the TRO, but subsequently denied the preliminary injunction after an abbreviated hearing, concluding that the merger’s likely effect would not be substantially to reduce competition in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. The Commission appealed the district court’s ruling on grounds that the lower court failed to apply the proper legal standard that governs preliminary injunction applications by the Commission in Section 7 cases. The appellate court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings to determine if the proposed $670 million deal raised competition problems in numerous local markets where Whole Foods and Wild Oats both operated premium natural and organic supermarkets. In a settlement on March 6, 2009, Whole Foods agreed to sell the name brand of Wild Oats, along with 32 of the company’s stores.
There is a related administrative proceeding.