Whole Foods sows its Wild Oats, defusing long FTC battle

In order to resolve an antitrust dispute, Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI) announced that it will sell the leases and assets of 31 operating and non-operating Wild Oats stores that it acquired in 2007. In return, the Federal Trade Commission has agreed to drop its opposition to the merger of the two chains.

As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, when Whole Foods originally acquired Wild Oats, the FTC attempted to block the merger, claiming that would "lessen competition in the market for natural and organic foods." Although a federal judge rejected the FTC's claim, a subsequent appeal reversed that ruling, propelling the Whole Foods/Wild Oats merger into a state of limbo -- over a year after the acquired stores had already been converted to Whole Foods markets.

After two years of legal wrangling, the situation seems to be resolved.