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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

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.

3 hours ago - Technology

Race and technology in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The technology industry is famously determined to change the world — but its efforts to diversify its workforce and remove bias from its products haven't changed nearly enough.

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

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