Austin, TX—John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, will retire on September 1, 2022, “to pursue some of [his] other life passions,” according to a letter he wrote to Whole Foods employees. Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel will take up the position of CEO.

In the letter, Mackey explained that he feels it’s “time to begin to transition [his] role as CEO to the next generation of leadership.”

In the 44 years since Mackey has been at Whole Foods—which, he writes, includes two years at Safer Way, the precursor to Whole Foods—he has often explained his relationship to the company “with a parent-child metaphor.” He wrote: “As a parent, I have always loved Whole Foods with all my heart. I have done my best to instill strong values, a clear sense of higher purpose beyond profits, and a loving culture that allows the company and all our interdependent stakeholders to flourish.”

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Buechel joined Whole Foods in 2013 as Global VP and Chief Information Officer, was promoted to EVP in 2015, and was named COO in 2019. Mackey wrote: “Jason is a true servant leader and champion of Whole Foods’ culture and values, and he will lead the company into the future. Jason was my personal choice to replace me as the CEO and I’m pleased Amazon leadership agreed that he is the right person for the role… Jason is one of my most trusted partners and I’m incredibly confident that the company will continue to evolve and thrive under his leadership… Not only is he extraordinarily intelligent with unusually high integrity, he is also a servant leader who lives and embodies Whole Foods Core Values and Leadership Principles and is fundamentally just a good and loving person.”

Mackey intends to devote most of his final year to visiting stores and connecting with employees.