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Amazon has scared grocers — and others — the world over

In the 1970s, oil behemoths, then kings of the corporate world, bought up department stores, beef canners and even the Barnum and Bailey Circus. But is it now the turn of the big five U.S. tech companies to snap up some economic prizes?

What was most surprising about Amazon's stunning $13 billion acquisition of Whole Foods last week was its juxtaposition with CEO Jeff Bezos' years of denunciations — and destruction — of brick-and-mortar retail chains. And people sense it may signal the front end of a wave of legacy sector acquisitions:

  • We already have Silicon Valley moving in on Detroit's turf, creating a tense contest for who will dominate self-driving transportation.
  • But to the degree the Whole Foods acquisition is not an anomaly, don't look for the tech giants to mimic the oil companies of yore, and venture far from their core businesses.
  • Amazon is also unlikely to conduct a massive firing of workers, which would undermine the Whole Foods brand.