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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.

What seems informative is Bezos's 2013 acquisition of the Washington Post, which met immediate consternation that he would strip the paper to make it more profitable. Instead, he poured cash in, and the paper is turning out some of its best journalism in years.

Be smart: That's why it seems best to ignore forecasts that Amazon will dramatically change Whole Foods culture, its fare, and operating style. Instead, he will want to embrace Whole Foods high-end quality brand, and hope it washes over onto cut-rate Amazon reputation.

Capgemini's Shannon Warner, a retail consultant, tells Axios that Bezos will likely use Whole Foods to figure out how to make grocery shopping feel like less of a chore. If he can crack that problem, she said, "people will embrace it overnight." And that will be a critical moment for other grocery chains, which "waited too long and no longer have the capital to invest and survive."

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

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