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Market Basket board: We'll 'evaluate' offer

Union Leader Correspondent

July 25. 2014 7:10PM

Hookesett Market Barket employee Jared Archameault rallies in Tewksbury with a giraffe, a mascot workers chose to show they are willing to stick their necks out to fight for what they beleive in. (Barbara Taormina)

TEWKSBURY, Mass. — Market Basket’s board of directors said Friday it “will evaluate and seriously consider” offers from ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and 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 percent of the shares of the Company,” the board said after meeting Friday, the same day thousands of Market Basket 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 to pressure the company’s board.

Protests continue

With Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” blasting in the background, horns blowing and balloons and signs waving, a crowd of several thousand Market Basket workers and supporters packed the parking lot of Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury, Mass., Friday morning to rally for the company’s former CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas.

Organizers had originally said Friday’s rally would be the final event in a long, hot week of protests and picketing that kept workers off the job and shelves at many of the grocery store chain’s 71 locations empty.

Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to buy out other family members who own 50.5 percent of the privately held business.

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

“We are going to continue on to next week,” said Tom Trainor, a grocery supervisor and one of eight senior managers fired last weekend for organizing the protests.

Decades of infighting have divided the Demoulas family, and last month the bitter feud led to the ousting of Arthur T. Demoulas, despite the years of growth and profits the company saw under his leadership. Employees who are passionately loyal to Arthur T. Demoulas fear the company’s new management will put profits ahead of workers and customers, and they want their old boss back at the Market Basket helm.

“The only demand we have is the return of Arthur T. Demoulas and the others who were unfairly terminated,” said warehouse supervisor Mike McGuire, who urged workers to stay together and stay focused.

Customer appreciation

McGuire also urged the board of directors not to “mess with our family.”

Meat supervisor Gordon Leblanc was one of several speakers who had the large crowd cheering for customers who have been writing letters, signing petitions and taking their business to other grocery stores.

“Thank you for your support,” said Leblanc, who added that customers have been bringing cold drinks, pizza and take-out food to employees who have been holding signs on roadways in front of stores.

Local political leaders also took brief turns at the podium during Friday’s rally.

Massachusetts state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, praised Market Basket workers for their united stand, and promised continued support.

“All of you are incredible role models,” said Finegold. “All of you have stood tall for what you believe in, and you don’t see that much anymore.”

New Hampshire Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, told workers they have the support of New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

“This is a watershed moment in history,” said Cushing. “You have the ability to take control of a situation and say, ‘We count, communities count.’”

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

Deli supervisor Mike Kettenbach, one of the eight managers fired last weekend, said he was completely humbled by the show of support from workers and customers.

“It’s amazing what all of you have done,” he said. “They cannot, and will not, divide us.”

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