Ousted Market Basket CEO offers to buy troubled New England chain

BOSTON, July 24 Thu Jul 24, 2014 10:45am EDT

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BOSTON, July 24 (Reuters) - Arthur T. Demoulas, former chief executive officer of the DeMoulas Market Basket supermarket chain, said he wants to buy the company to rescue it from the turmoil triggered by a family feud and employee revolt.

Market Basket is one of New England's leading privately held supermarkets - with some $3.55 billion in revenue from its more than 70 stores - but it is struggling to keep some shelves stocked due to worker protests over the leadership dispute.

"The Arthur T. Demoulas side of the family has made an offer to buy the 50.5 percent of shares in DeMoulas Market Basket Supermarkets we do not own," Arthur T. Demoulas said in a statement on Thursday, without detailing the offer.

"We care deeply about Market Basket and all of our Associates and we want to work together to return the company to its successful model for serving our loyal customers."

Market Basket's board of directors is due to meet on Friday in Boston. Members were not immediately available to comment.

Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted as CEO of the company in June after his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, wrested control of the board, triggering employee protests and a petition drive that has gathered tens of thousands of signatures.

The CEO position of the Tewksbury, Massachusetts-based company - which competes with regional chains like Hannaford Brothers, Shaw's, and Stop & Shop - was filled by former Radio Shack executive James Gooch and ex-Albertsons executive Felicia Thornton as co-CEOs.

The feud began decades ago over allegations by Arthur S.' side of the family that Arthur T.'s father had stolen ownership shares by setting up shell companies. A judge sided with Arthur S.'s family in 1994, giving it a 51 percent share.

Despite family tensions, Arthur T. became head of the company in 2008, and became popular with employees for providing good pay and benefits and other worker-friendly policies. The board shifted in Arthur S.'s favor in 2013, however, after two members were replaced.

Market Basket employees are planning a "final protest" at the company's Tewksbury headquarters on Friday, to coincide with the Boston board meeting, according to Save Market Basket, an employee Facebook page. (Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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