Tensions continue to mount between the Market Basket Board of Directors and ousted former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas as both groups issued escalating public statements over the weekend.
Late Friday afternoon, the Independent Directors of the Market Basket Board of Directors issued a statement proposing an unspecified “a path forward” to allow Arthur T. Demoulas to stabilize the company, but not in any formal capacity as CEO, while allowing Demoulas to “simultaneously continue to pursue his stated intent to acquire the entire ownership of the Company from the majority owners.”
The statement also encourages Demoulas to “move on.” (Read the statement in full here.)
The crux of the argument between Market Basket employees and current Market Basket leadership is the firing of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO in late June. Time and time again, both employees and customers have repeated their single demand: “bring back Artie T.”
Arthur T. Demoulas and his team released a response within an hour of Friday’s statement, calling the Board of Directors’ offer and subsequent end of the news week press release “disingenuous.” The counter statement continues:
“This is far too serious a situation for these games and attempts at window dressing. It is a serious issue that deserves a serious solution. Market Basket’s Associates, customers, vendors and communities deserve better than that. Arthur T. Demoulas has provided a serious proposal which should be accepted.”
According to Demoulas’s team, he has submitted at least three proposals to the Market Basket Board of Directors to buy majority shares of the beleaguered company, but has not yet received a response. Meanwhile, the parent company of Market Basket competitor Hannaford Bros. grocery stores has reportedly put in an offer to buy the company as well.
Saturday morning, the Independent Directors of Market Basket issued yet another statement accusing Arthur T. Demoulas of holding Market Basket employees and shoppers “hostage” for the sake of business negotiations. Their statement reads in part:
“Business negotiations should not prevent our Associates from earning a living or our customers from buying groceries. It is wrong to hold everyone hostage to gain a negotiation advantage. Let’s end the hostage-taking and get together to work at finding common ground.”
Then, very late Saturday night, a spokesperson for the majority shareholders, issued a statement indicating they have been willing to sell to Arthur T. this whole time and it is he who continues to hold up the process to move forward by not compromising on proposed financing terms. The statement reads in part:
“Arthur T. Demoulas’ conduct to date, including his most recent public statement, continues to undermine Market Basket the Class B Shareholders have not indicated a willingness to engage in good faith discussions for a sale.
Neither Demoulas or his team has issued a public response yet to these two latest statements from Market Basket executives and shareholders.
As the Market Basket standoff continues, shoppers continue to boycott the stores until “Artie T.” returns. Sales have been down 90% since the customer boycott began. Part-time employees are facing a nebulous and unofficial layoff for the immediate future as shelves remain bare with delivery operations ground to a halt.
The Market Basket situation has become so dire that even Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has been forced to weigh in with heavy-handed words of his own to all parties involved in the dispute. Friday afternoon, Governor Patrick had this to say:
“By any measure, the disruption caused by your recent change in CEO has gotten out of hand, and I am writing to urge you to find a prompt resolution. Your failure to resolve this matter is not only hurting the company’s brand and business, but also many innocent and relatively powerless workers whose livelihoods depend on you.”
Whether or not Market Basket as company or brand can be salvaged remains to be seen. Meanwhile, supporters of Arthur T. Demoulas are in it for the long haul. On Saturday, Christina Fogerty, a Market Basket employee, shared her resolve on the Save Market Basket Facebook page in response to the Board of Directors’ statements:
“I am a part time employee and I am not a hostage. We are New Englanders that fight for what is right. We will fight to the end.”