A boardroom battle for control of the Market Basket grocery store chain has local employees rallying behind current company CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, whose job appears to be in jeopardy.
The controversy is expected to come to a head Thursday morning when the board of directors of Demoulas Supermarkets, Inc., will meet and possibly replace Demoulas with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.
For years, the Demoulas family has wrangled over of what has grown into a 71-store grocery chain, which has roots in Lowell but has expanded across Massachusetts and New Hampshire. including to the Cape Ann store at Gloucester Crossing, where the company also served as primary investor in the entire complex. The family also owns property in West Gloucester on the site of what was once the old Gloucester Drive-In movie theater.
Arthur T. Demoulas has served as CEO since 2008. 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.
But this week, employees outside Market Basket locations in Haverhill and Londonderry asked customers to sign a petition in support of Arthur T. Demoulas. A similar “Save Market Basket” petition boasts over 35,000 online signatures.
“Arthur T. Demoulas has had my back for 36 years,” said Mark Lemieux, store manager at the Londonderry Market Basket. “And now he needs me. He needs us.”
Lemieux, 52, began working at the grocery chain in 1977 as a bagger. Lemieux said replacing Arthur T. Demoulas will harm the culture of the company, which he said is growing and is bolstered by thousands of motivated employees.
“All he thinks about, all he cares about are his employees and his customers,” said Lemieux. “I’m not looking forward to a change.”
A call to Arthur S. Demoulas’ Boston-based lawyer was not returned.