Protesting workers from Market Basket exchanged high-fives when their much-loved former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas bought back his company Wednesday evening.
The family-owned New England grocery chain was rocked by a tabloid-worthy family feud back in June, when Demoulas’ cousin (confusingly named Arthur S. Demoulas) took control of Market basket’s board, ousted Demoulas and two of his top executives, and installed his own creatures in their place.
The Boston Globe reports the board claimed Demoulas was spending money “recklessly,” while Demoulas claimed his rivals just wanted larger dividend payouts that would come out of his workers’ and customers’ hides.
Director of Operations William Marsden, who also got the boot, declared:
“The board’s action today is driven by greed, pure and simple. Our crime was our commitment to Arthur T. Demoulas, the employees, and the promise to customers to always honor the Market Basket commitment to high quality and value.
At first, market analysts thought the large, well-run, profitable company could easily withstand the latest round of infighting. After all, Evil Demoulas has been fussing and encumbering Market Basket with lawsuits for decades.
Despite the drama, the chain has prospered. Today, the chain, formally known as Demoulas Super Markets Inc., has 71 stores and about 25,000 employees in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. It is reported to have had revenue of $4.6 billion in 2013 and is ranked by Forbes as the 127th largest private company in the United States.
Little did these smug analysts know Market Basket’s workers, suppliers, and customers had other ideas. For starters, Evil Demoulas greatly underestimated people’s devotion to his cousin. Secondly, the public seems to have heartily agreed with Marsden’s assessment.
Almost immediately, workers walked off the job, suppliers refused to deliver, and customers began boycotting the store. Boston.Com reports a series of increasingly large protests held in various locations throughout July, swelling in numbers to over 6,000 gathered on July 25th at a Market Basket parking lot in Tewksbury, Mass.
By mid-July, Market Basket and reinstating Demoulas had become a cause cause célèbre, according to The Boston Globe:
Since Arthur T.’s firing nearly a month ago, Market Basket has become both a public spectacle and a political cause. The Save Market Basket Facebook page has 40,000 likes. Several online petitions demanding the reinstatement of Arthur T. have attracted more than 16,000 signatures; dozens of Massachusetts lawmakers have pledged to support a boycott of the supermarket. On Monday, the governor of New Hampshire weighed in, urging the supermarket’s leadership to quickly resolve the dispute.
By the last week of August, the once bustling stores had been reduced to hollowed-out shells with empty shelves, devoid of workers or customers. The Boston Herald reports in just over two months, Market Basket’s top brass had gone from licking their chops over the hefty dividends they could suck out of its victims to mulling the possibility of closing all but 10 of its 71 stores.
In the nick of time, Demoulas managed to hammer out a deal to buy out his evil cousin with a controlling 50.5 percent for $1.5 billion, according to the Huffington Post. But the feud had gotten so nasty and devastating, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick and N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan had to intervene. In a joint statement, the governors said:
“We are delighted that the parties have reached agreement on terms of sale and resolution of operating authority, so that employees can return to work and customers will once again be able to rely on these stores to meet their needs.”
Naturally, the Market Basket workers awaiting the news outside were thrilled. After all, the ones who walked out had gone without pay this entire time.
Market Basket workers rally to reinstate Demoulas.
Watch this news report from WBUR TV-9 on the huge rally staged by Market Basket workers and their supporters.
Featured photo: Aram Boghosian/Boston Globe.