Whole Foods Market boss John Mackey has apologised for the renegade online PR campaign he conducted to boost his company’s image on financial messageboards.

In a statement, Mackey asked for shareholders’ forgiveness over his anonymous postings, which were uncovered last week and are now being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission:

“I sincerely apologize to all Whole Foods Market stakeholders for my error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards. I am very sorry and I ask our stakeholders to please forgive me.”

All in all, it doesn’t look good for the businessman.

Whole Foods’ purchase of rival Wild Oats – whose management Mackey criticised in his postings – is currently being challenged by the US Federal Trade Commission.

His words also contrast with an earlier statement in which he said he wrote the postings because he “had fun doing it”.

Corporate governance expert Nell Minow of the Corporate Library told Reuters that Mackey was guilty of “monumental poor judgment”:

“When you are the CEO of a public company you no longer have the luxury of communicating in any way you like about what’s going on at your company.”

Whole Foods, which recently opened a huge organic food shop in Kensington, said it had launched an internal investigation into the controversy.