Mike Gilliland and the Rise of Boulder's Natural-Foods Grocers

February 21 2011, 3:00 PM

Before he was netted in a child prostitution ring recently, Mike Gilliland appeared to be rehabilitating his business reputation, write the Denver Post and Daily Camera, in a collaborative report on Gilliland's role in shaping the current landscape of local natural-foods grocers. Gilliland and his ex-wife are credited with growing the Boulder-based Wild Oats chain, which won a highly publicized bidding war with Whole Foods in the '90s. But shortly thereafter, former co-workers say, Gilliland began making poor business decisions, and the couple eventually left all but 11 percent of the ailing Wild Oats behind.

Allegations of noncompete violations and insider trading followed, as the alleged foundation for Sunflower Farmers Market was being laid. Nevertheless, Gilliland's legal troubles seemed behind him as Sunflower expanded into Phoenix, where he was netted this month for soliciting sex from a minor. Sunflower's new CEO tells the Camera Gilliland is "not affiliated with the company," which received a second blow last week after a major merger involving competitor Sprouts Farmers Market and two other companies was announced (via the Post).