After a flurry of activity late Friday, Market Basket workers waited Saturday to see whether the coming days will bring the return of Arthur T. Demoulas, the former president of the supermarket chain whom workers want to see back at the helm.
“That’s what we’re all hoping for,” Mike Menard, a manager at the Market Basket Biddeford store, said Saturday.
The chain has been beset by labor troubles since Demoulas and two other top executives were fired by the Market Basket board earlier this summer. Some workers walked off the job, particularly those who work at the critical warehouse and shipping operation in Tewsksbury, Massachusetts, which has led to some empty shelves at stores for much of the past month. Customers have also dwindled, either due to the lack of products or a consumer boycott that seeks to back workers in their effort to restore Demoulas as president of the 71-store chain.
On Friday, Govs. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, who have intervened in negotiations seeking a solution to the standoff, said a deal leading to the sale of the company to Demoulas appeared to be near. A statement issued on Demoulas’ behalf a short time later urged a speedy resolution, although the company board has been silent this weekend.
The deal would resolve the family rift – at least at the board level – that led to the unrest, which has cost the company millions in lost sales. Arthur T. Demoulas led a minority faction of the board, while his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas led the family members who control 50.5 percent of the stock. The problems are rooted in long-running family animosity and arguments over spending and shareholder payouts.
The Boston Globe reported that the deal calls for Arthur T. Demoulas to buy the stock he doesn’t control for $1.5 billion, which is in line with estimates before the dispute that valued the company at roughly $3 billion. The Globe said Arthur T. Demoulas’ financial advisers say that $500 million for the purchase will come from a loan by a private equity firm and the rest would be cash from Demoulas and his sisters and a mortgage on the chain’s real estate.
Menard said he heard that the board met to discuss the deal further on Saturday and would meet again Monday, but the board has not made any announcements about meetings. The switchboard at the company’s Tewksbury headquarters isn’t staffed on weekends.
Menard said business at the Biddeford store rebounded slightly Saturday and customers told him they were returning because they believe the sale of the chain will go through in a few days.