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UPDATED: Thousands of Market Basket employees rally; company board issues statement on purchase offer, reaffirms support for new CEOs

Staff Report
July 25. 2014 2:55PM
Thousands of Market Basket employees and their supporters gather in a parking lot in Tewksbury, Mass., in a rally to support ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

TEWKSBURY, Mass. — Market Basket’s board of directors said Friday it “will evaluate and seriously consider” offers from ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and from other potential bidders to sell a controlling stake in the supermarket chain.

“The Board of Directors of Demoulas Super Markets met today and confirmed that the Company has received an offer from Arthur T. Demoulas and the other “B” shareholders to acquire the remaining 50.5% of the shares of the Company,” the board said after meeting Friday, the same day thousands of supermarket workers rallied to support the former CEO.

“The Board said that the offer was received prior to the deadline for the “B” shareholders to present a proposal. Consistent with its fiduciary obligations, the Board will evaluate and seriously consider this proposal, along with any other offers previously received and to be received,” the statement said. “Following its evaluation of all of the offers, it will convey its recommendations to the Company’s shareholders.”

The board also said employees who have refused to work should return to their jobs.

“The negative behavior of certain current and former associates is at variance with the Company’s culture of putting the needs of the Market Basket customers first,” the statement said. “It is now clear that it is in the interests of all members of the Market Basket community for normal business operations to resume immediately.

“Furthermore, the Board reaffirmed its election of Co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch to manage the Company in accordance with the company’s bylaws,” the statement said.

The announcement was released within hours of workers staging their largest rally yet in an effort to pressure the company’s board.

“This is a watershed moment in history,” Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, N.H., told the crowd.

Cushing is co-organizer of a petition drive that has garnered more than 70 current and former legislators supporting the supermarket boycott.

Media reports from the scene say Friday’s rally is larger than similar ones held Monday and July 18.

Ashley Champy, a full-time grocery clerk from Londonderry, N.H., said protests were not going to stop until Arthur T. Demoulas is reinstated.

“I won’t go back to work,” she said.

Jesse Dennis, who makes pizza at the store in Manchester, N.H., said he’s here to support Arthur T. because it’s the only job he’s ever had that treats him right.

A lack of regular food deliveries has thinned Market Basket store shelves throughout New England while many customers are supporting picketing workers and boycotting stores, including about 30 in New Hampshire.

Workers vowed to continue their fight until their former CEO returns.

“This isn’t over yet,” said Steve Paulenka of Londonderry, N.H., one of eight senior managers who were fired last weekend for their roles in organizing rallies and boycotts.

“We have to keep it up, and shut it down,” he yelled to the huge crowd that responded with chants of “Shut it down!”

Grocery supervisor Tom Trainor, who also was fired, stood firm.

“Nothing changes until we get the right answer,” Trainor said. “We’re not coming back until Artie T. is back.”

Trainor and other store managers thanked customers for all their support, which had included bringing cold drinks and pizza to many workers who have protested on roadways in front of their stores this week.

Trainor asked customers to continue to stand behind the workers. “Pease go to our competitors and stay away from our stores,” he said. “I know it will cost you a couple of extra bucks, but please put these people out of business. They have no business being in business.”

Barbara Taormina contributed to this report

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