(Recasts throughout; updates with reaction to the deal)
By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - 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)