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August 08. 2014 8:31PM

Arthur T. rejects board members’ proposal to ‘move on,’ settle strife

MANCHESTER — Ousted Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas on Friday night rejected a proposal by three independent Market Basket directors to come back — but not as CEO — to help the current management team return the supermarket chain to normal while he attempts to broker a deal to buy a controlling interest.

“This is an attempt to have him stabilize the company, while they consider selling it to another bidder,” said Justine Griffin, a spokeswoman for Arthur T. Demoulas. “This is far too serious a situation for these games and attempts at window dressing.”

Griffin’s statement came less than two hours after the independent directors issued a statement outlining their plan to “meet in the middle” in an effort to bring workers and customers back into fully stocked stores.

“Any delay to reaching agreement on this path forward simply harms associates, customers and the company. It is time to move on,” the directors said in their statement.

The dueling statements indicated that there was no immediate end in sight in this long-running feud within the food chain that has seen sales drop by at least 90 percent at most New Hampshire locations. Part-time workers learned this week that most of them would receive no scheduled hours next week, idling as many as 8,000 part-timers in New Hampshire.

At the Market Basket in Tilton, Assistant Store Director Ed Reed said before Arthur T.’s statement that the proposal offered by the independent directors fell short in his eyes.

“We’ve said from Day 1 we want Arthur T. back in full control running this company,” he said. “They’re dragging their feet.”

The plan by independent directors would allow Demoulas to continue to pursue a potential purchase but “would not place Mr. Demoulas in control of the company during this interim period, but would instead retain the current management,” the statement said.

The proposal would allow Demoulas “and his entire former management team, including all individuals who resigned or were dismissed, to assist the company’s return to normal business operations and people to get back to their jobs and lives,” the statement said.

“Mr. Demoulas gets his management team back in place, associates can get back to doing their job, customers can get back to shopping and the company gets the breathing room needed to create an orderly and productive way forward,” the independent directors said.

Griffin said Demoulas offered three times, most recently Thursday, to bring back his management team “to work to stabilize the company. Each offer was rejected.

“It is disingenuous to issue a press release at 5:30 on a Friday, from the ‘independent directors,’ all of whom were appointed by Arthur S. Demoulas’ side of the family, announcing that they have invited him to rejoin the company but not as CEO.”

Arthur S. Demoulas is the feuding cousin of Arthur. T. Demoulas.

The directors said they were willing to meet with Gov. Maggie Hassan and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Earlier Friday, Patrick told the Market Basket board of directors in a letter that the disruption that followed the ousting of the company’s CEO “has gotten out of hand.”

Patrick wrote the board that he isn’t taking a view about who should preside over the company but said he believes “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.”

The governor acknowledged there were many details in its decision making that he didn’t know but urged the board to resolve the situation soon, “so that economic peace is restored and the workers’ future is secure.”

mcousineau@unionleader.com



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