TEWKSBURY, Mass., July 25 Thousands of people
joined a rally on Friday calling for family-owned New England
supermarket chain Market Basket to reinstate its former chief
Arthur T. Demoulas was fired by the company board of
directors in June after a long-running power struggle with his
cousin Arthur S. Demoulas.
His ouster, along with top members of his executive team,
triggered a slow-burn revolt by employees who hailed his
worker-friendly policies, leading to store boycotts and work
slowdowns that have put the company's operations in disarray.
"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.
People at the rally held placards reading "Down with greed,
support Arthur T." and "Arthur T. is our CEO" as a small
propeller plane flew overhead dragging a banner that read "Artie
T. Save M.B - Buy Them Out!"
Arthur T. on Thursday said his side of the family had
offered to purchase full ownership of the company to resolve the
crisis but did not detail the offer. Members of the board of
directors, who met Friday morning, were not immediately
reachable for comment.
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. It
competes with regional chains like Hannaford Brothers, Shaw's,
and Stop & Shop.
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.
"He treated us like a family," said Xavier Taylor, 26, who
works at the Tewksbury Market Basket. "He always said this is a
family business first, and a food business second. I am forever
grateful to him."
(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Bill Trott)