Did Wild Oats close in vain?

A ruling by a federal appeals court yesterday said that the Whole Foods-Wild Oats merger, which has already closed four Wild Oats stores (including the one in Portland) and "reflagged" 27 others as Whole Foods, may have taken place without adequate consideration of the effect on the marketplace for natural and organic foods.

The Federal Trade Commission, which brought the request to block the merger, "argued that the Whole Foods' takeover would limit competition and increase prices" among people who buy natural products, according to today's New York Times.

Problem is, the merger has, for all effective purposes, already happened (witness the shuttered store on Marginal Way). "The eggs are already scrambled," antitrust lawyer Richard E. Donovan is quoted as saying. "What are you going to do?"

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