(Recasts with comment from Market Basket management)
TEWKSBURY, Mass., July 25 Family-owned New
England supermarket chain Market Basket said on Friday it will
"seriously consider" a buyout offer from its ousted CEO Arthur
T. Demoulas, as thousands of people rallied near the company's
headquarters for the executive's return.
Demoulas was fired by the board of directors in June after a
power struggle with his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, triggering a
rare revolt by employees who hailed his worker-friendly
policies. The Demoulas family founded Market Basket in 1962.
"The Board will evaluate and seriously consider this
proposal, along with any other offers previously received and to
be received," according to a statement from the board of
Demoulas Supermarkets, which owns the Market Basket chain.
"It is now clear that it is in the interests of all members
of the Market Basket community for normal business operations to
resume immediately," it added.
Arthur T. announced on Thursday that his side of the family
had offered to purchase the 55 percent of the company it did not
current own, but did not detail the offer.
Market Basket, based in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, is one of
New England's leading privately-held supermarkets with some
$3.55 billion in revenue from its more than 70 stores around the
region. It competes with New England chains like Hannaford
Brothers, Shaw's, and Stop & Shop.
But the Demoulas family feud has put the company's
operations in disarray. Work stoppages and a boycott call by
angry employees - who say Arthur T. provided good wages and
benefits - have led to empty shelves in some stores.
Thousands of people, including many Market Basket employees,
rallied in a parking lot near the company's headquarters on
Friday, holding placards reading "Down with greed, support
Arthur T." and "Arthur T. is our CEO." A plane flew overhead
dragging a banner reading "Artie T. Save M.B. - Buy Them Out!"
"Our only demand is the return of Arthur T. and the leaders
who were wrongfully terminated," Michael Maguire, director of
produce for Market Basket, said at the rally, which responded in
a torrent of cheers.
Zeynep Ton, an adjunct professor at MIT Sloan School of
Management, said the outpouring of support from workers for an
ex-top executive was very rare. "I have never seen this kind of
support for an executive," she said.
After Arthur T.'s firing, former Radio Shack executive James
Gooch and ex-Albertsons executive Felicia Thornton became
co-CEOs of Market Basket. The new management has said it plans
no immediate changes to the company's worker policies.
The family 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. The board shifted in Arthur S.'s favor in 2013,
however, after two members were replaced.
(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis and Elizabeth Barber; Editing
by Bill Trott and Nick Zieminski)