JANA Partners, an activist hedge fund, has built a nearly 9% stake in Whole Foods, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal citing people familiar with the situation.
“Jana, Whole Foods’ second-largest shareholder, is planning to press the chain to improve its technology and operations to better compete with larger rivals, shake up its board and find out how much a potential bidder might be willing to pay, according to people familiar with the matter.”
The fund, which was founded by Barry Rosenstein, has also prepared a line-up of potential board nominees but hasn’t yet met with the grocer’s current board or execs, the report said.
JANA Partners managed about $5 billion in hedge fund assets as of mid-year 2016, according to the HFI Billion Dollar Club, an industry tracker.
After the initial publication of this article, Whole Foods spokesperson Brooke Buchanan provided Business Insider with the following statement:
“Whole Foods Market welcomes investment in the Company and is open to the views and opinions of all of our shareholders. We value constructive dialogue toward our shared goals of creating shareholder value, successfully executing on our strategic priorities and taking actions that will position the Company for continued success. We are committed to driving value for all Whole Foods Market shareholders and will continue to act to achieve this important objective.”
We have reached out to JANA and will update if we receive a response.