The board of directors for Market Basket has scheduled a meeting for this afternoon at the Prudential Center in Boston—a meeting that company employees said they hope will bring an end to the current standoff between employees and new management.
They have said that the only resolution to the current situation, which has led to protests, boycotts, the shutdown of distribution centers and empty store shelves would be the rehiring of ousted chief executive Arthur T. Demoulas.
Arthur T. Demoulas was fired last month by the board of directors which is now controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. The two are grandsons of the franchise’s founder and have been at the center of a family feud for decades. Eight other longtime employees were fired last weekend after showing their support of Arthur T. A company statement said they were let go because “their actions continued to harm the company, negatively impacted customers, and inhibited associates’ ability to perform their jobs.”
The return of Arthur T. could come with his purchase of the company. In a statement released yesterday Thursday, July 24, Mr. Demoulas and his side of the family have offered to buy 50.5 percent of the company’s shares that they do not own.
A dollar figure for those shares has been made public.
“We believe that our offer is a very full and fair one and should meet or exceed a seller’s expectations of the value of the Company,” the statement said.
Market Basket has 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
At the Sagamore store this week, kindling wood filled a display case where potatoes are typically stacked because the store was sold out and getting no more deliveries. The display case in the store’s delicatessen sat empty. Produce shelves were missing many items, including apples, lettuce and fresh salads. In the rear of the store, shelving units that are usually loaded to the ceiling with cartons of food were vacant except for two cartons containing corn, the only perishable item left in the company’s warehouse.
Store manager Paul Quigley said that Market Basket stores had to throw away a total of $500,000 worth of fish, after the Massachusetts Board of Health pulled the company’s license to receive fish on Monday.
Yesterday morning in Sagamore, cashiers manned only two of the store’s 17 registers. Mr. Quigley said that, typically, at that time of day during the summer, there would be 15 or 16 registers checking out customers.
Mr. Quigley started with the company 33 years ago, working as a bagger while in high school, at the company’s store in his hometown of Haverhill. He concurred that the company has always been run like a family, and the way business was done was not to “just send in a couple of Wall Street power brokers and say, ‘Okay, we run the company now.’ ”
“That’s not our company. We’re different,” he said.
Mr. Quigley also pointed out that Arthur S. Demoulas and the board of directors have been exposed for not telling the truth: when they denied plans to sell Market Basket to another chain. Court documents show that Arthur S. Demoulas did indeed plan to sell, he said.
“At this point, it’s time for them to take the offer from Arthur T’s side of the family and put this thing to bed,” he said.
He added that the ongoing standoff is hurting employees, vendors and customers.
“Enough is enough,” he said.
Mr. Quigley said that none of his employees have walked off the job in protest of Arthur T’s firing. He said that employees who are in front of the store, holding up signs, asking customers to sign petitions and protesting in support of Arthur T. Demoulas are doing so on their own time and because “they want to be there.”
“We told them, ‘Just give us the week, we’ll see what the board of directors meeting brings on Friday and we’ll go from there,’ ” he said.
Standing outside the Sagamore Market Basket where she hoisted a sign supporting Arthur T. Demoulas, Kim-Raye M. Gomes attested to the hands-on, personal management style that was the former CEO’s trademark. Ms. Gomes said that bonus checks would always come with a personal note from Mr. Demoulas thanking the employee for their part in building the company. She quoted one note she received from Mr. Demoulas as saying “this company is proceeding in the direction that it is because of you.”
No such communication comes from the current management, she said.
Another employee who preferred to remain anonymous, fearful of reprisal, spoke of the family-like atmosphere Arthur T. Demoulas engendered over the years, and said that his removal was “like taking our dad away.”
“Arthur would go to funerals, weddings, showers, anything. I mean, he’s just a terrific man, and that’s what we want back,” she said.
Penny A. Knochel of Wareham was full of praise for the company and sorry to hear of the turmoil that has enveloped her favorite grocer. Ms. Knochel said that she typically shops at the Market Basket in New Bedford, but she happened to be in Bourne Monday.
“It’s a great store. Everyone’s nice. We love the store, we don’t shop anywhere else,” she said.