, Gloucester, MA

July 20, 2013

Demoulas board moves past CEO fight

By Brian Messenger
Staff Writer

---- — ANDOVER — Arthur T. Demoulas remains at the helm of Market Basket.

After a nearly 13-hour meeting at the Wyndham Hotel, the board of directors made no motion to remove him, a move that had been pushed by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

“I am pleased with (the) result. I hope to work constructively with the board going forward,” Arthur T. Demoulas said in a prepared statement. “It is my desire to continue to look out for the best interests of our customers and employees.

“Together, we have built a fine organization and I am extremely proud of you,” he said. “Thanks to everybody for their tremendous outpouring of support.”

For years, the Demoulas family has wrangled over Market Basket, which has grown into a 71-store grocery chain. While the company has its roots in Lowell, it has expanded across Massachusetts and New Hampshire — including to Cape Ann, where the family not only opened a supermarket as one of the anchor stores of the Gloucester Crossing project, but partnered with developer Sam Park to underwrite the entire shopping center project.

Arthur T. Demoulas has served as CEO since 2008. The directors are not expected to meet again until August, according to Harry-Jacques Pierre, a spokesman for Arthur T. Demoulas.

Arthur S. Demoulas and other members on his side of the family allege Arthur T. Demoulas has mismanaged the company and ignored instructions from the board, according to various reports. Yet Market Basket employees left no doubt as to their allegiance, urging shoppers at stores, including Gloucester’s, to sign petitions to keep Arthur T. in place, and taking out full-page ads in local papers including the Times this week to show their support.

Market Basket’s CEO received superstar treatment from hundreds of loyal employees as he arrived in town for the meeting, and the raucous show of support just may have been what saved his job.

Outside the hotel yesterday morning, a vocal crowd made up mostly of Market Basket employees stood in 90-degree heat to hold signs and chant “Artie T!” as Arthur T. Demoulas arrived in a slow-moving Ford sedan.

At one point, the throng nearly swarmed the vehicle as the CEO reached out to shake hands and wave at his supporters. It was a scene Helen Simpson of Salem, N.H., compared to the legendary Woodstock concert.

“It was just powerful,” said Simpson, a 25-year employee at Market Basket.

“That’s what he is to us — a rock star,” added Jim Close, a Merrimack, N.H., resident and 27-year Market Basket veteran.

One supporter painted the window of an SUV to read “Arthur T = Integrity.” Others in the crowd targeted Arthur S. Demoulas, with signs that read, “People Before Profits,” and “Artie S = Greed.”

Pat Somma of Andover said he wasn’t surprised at all by the size of the crowd. The deli manager at the Salem, N.H., Market Basket questioned why the board would consider a leadership change when the company continues to experience growth.

“I think it (would be) a bad move,” said Somma. “The company’s running very well right now.”

Brian McCullough of Lawrence said Arthur T. Demoulas “always makes us feel like we work with him, not for him.”

“I’ve never been in a boardroom before, but I see everything going well now,” said McCullough. “Everybody’s happy and they’re making money so I don’t see why they would change.”