Famed supermarket investor Ron Burkle appears to have wooed Wild Oats Market ( OATS) in his bid to raise his ownership stake in the company. Burkle, through his hedge fund, Yucaipa, increased his stake in the organic foods chain to 15%, and the company amended its shareholder rights agreement to allow him to buy up to 20% of its stock. Wild Oats said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it amended an earlier rights agreement with Wells Fargo Bank ( WFC) to exclude Burkle and Yucaipa from the definition of "acquiring person." This allows the firm to acquire beneficial ownership up to 20% of Wild Oats' outstanding common stock without triggering its so-called poison pill, a mechanism designed to prevent takeovers from outside investors. "This indicates that Wild Oats looks at Burkle as a potential acquirer positively," says Scott Van Winkle, analyst with Canaccord Adams. "It's not like he's going to make a run at the company without their cooperation. The only reason to have a shareholder rights plan is to avoid acquisitions you don't want, so this means they probably have interest in having Burkle buy them." But Sonja Tuitele, a Wild Oaks spokeswoman, downplayed Burkle's moves. "Anything can happen, but I wouldn't take this as a sign that Burkle is trying to take control of the company ," Tuitele says. "If his stake went above 20%, then we would be getting into control issues, but he has said he wants to remain a passive investor. He has not asked for a board seat. He likes the progress we're making, and he thinks this is a good space to be involved with, so he wanted to increase his ownership stake." Burkle is no stranger to the process of buying grocery chains. Long a proponent of consolidation in the supermarket industry, he bought Chicago-based Dominick's for $700 million in the 1990s and sold it to Safeway ( SWY) three years later for $1.8 billion. He was also chairman of grocery chain Fred Meyer while Wild Oats' current chairman, Robert Miller, was CEO.