(Recasts throughout; updates with reaction to the deal)
By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON Aug 28 Employees of New England
supermarket chain Market Basket on Thursday cheered the return
of their ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, after he inked a
reported $1.5 billion agreement to buy the company from his
cousin to end a family power struggle and worker revolt.
The company had tipped into chaos after Demoulas was fired
by the board of directors in June, setting off weeks of
protests, work stoppages and a store boycott organized by
workers who praised his employee-friendly policies.
"He and his management team will return to Market Basket
during the interim period while the transaction to purchase the
company is completed," according to a statement provided by a
spokesman for Demoulas.
The Boston Globe valued the deal at more than $1.5 billion.
Demoulas had been fired from the family-owned company after
a power struggle with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, which
dated back decades. Protests by angry employees, who said Arthur
T. provided good wages and benefits, led to empty shelves in
some stores. Arthur T. proposed in July to buy the 55 percent of
the company he did not already control.
On Thursday, Arthur T. told a crowd of cheering employees
outside the company's Tewksbury, Massachusetts, headquarters
that he was happy to be back.
"Words cannot express how much I missed you, and words
cannot express how much I love you," he said.
An employee, Brittany Silva, 20, said, "I'm happy and I feel
good, and Arthur T. deserves it."
The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where
Market Basket employs more than 20,000 people, also praised the
deal as a way to get people back to work and return the stores
to normal operations.
Market Basket is one of New England's leading privately-held
supermarkets with an estimated $3.55 billion in revenue from its
more than 70 stores around the region. It competes with big New
England chains like Hannaford Brothers, Shaw's and Stop & Shop.
The Demoulas family founded Market Basket in 1962.
The feud began decades ago over allegations by Arthur S.'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. The board shifted in Arthur S.'s favor in 2013,
however, after two members were replaced.
(Editing by G Crosse)