Las Vegas, NV–Whole Foods CEO John Mackey told the libertarian-minded audience at Freedom Fest Saturday that Microsoft was a better company when Bill Gates ran it.
During a debate, which focused on competition versus monopoly with fellow libertarian and former CEO of PayPal Peter Thiel, Mackey discussed the rise and fall of General Motors as well as where thinks Microsoft is going since Gates left the company to focus on philanthropy.
“When I was a boy I remember the big arguments around the dinner table were about General Motors—‘This is a big giant company. They have a monopoly on automobiles. The government has got to break them up.’
“Well, General Motors went bankrupt. And now the government does control them, and not because they were too big but because ultimately they got complacent and lazy, which happens when often times when you achieve a dominant market position,” Mackey said.
He explained, “Then it was IBM that was the boogeyman. ‘Oh IBM is so big. Something’s got to be done about those guys.’”
Mackey noted how Microsoft was “dragged by the Justice Department into the courtroom” and “terrible things” were being said about Gates at that time. Eventually, Gates folded and left the company, he said.
“It would be better to be a philanthropist and have ‘everybody love me than to be accused of being this horrible monopolist and have everybody hate me,'” was the deciding factor, Mackey believed as to why Gates left the business world all together.
He added, “So that’s probably pretty good for his own piece of mind, but I’d argue [his departure has] probably done great things for the Gates Foundation, but what has Microsoft done since Bill Gates retired? We were much better off when Bill Gates was in there leading Microsoft.”
Gates left the tech giant in 2008. He battled with the Department of Justice for 21 years over anti-trust law, more than half of the company’s life by the time of his departure.