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Board members urge Arthur T. to 'end the hostage-taking'

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 09. 2014 10:09PM

Three independent directors on the Demoulas board of directors told ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas on Saturday to "end the hostage-taking" that has left Market Basket stores with few customers and withering sales.

"Twenty five thousand associates and 2 million customers shouldn't be held hostage for a business deal between shareholders," their statement read. "We all need to get back to work, stock our shelves and allow our customers to return to shop."

Arthur T. Demoulas, who wants to regain control of the Market Basket supermarket chain, rejected a proposal by the three independent directors to come back - but not as CEO - to help the current management team return the 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," Justine Griffin, a spokesman for Arthur T. Demoulas, said Friday. "This is far too serious a situation for these games and attempts at window dressing."

At the Hooksett store Saturday, part-time worker Alyssa Douglas of Epsom, who isn't scheduled to work this week because payroll has been slashed, said: "From the beginning, we've said we wanted our CEO back and nothing less and that's what we're fighting for."

Saturday's statement from the directors said "each side has sets of proposals to solve the impasse - there are enough proposed solutions out there to begin a serious negotiation. 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," the statement said. "We are ready (to) meet, anytime, anywhere."

The plan, disclosed by independent directors Friday, would allow Mr. 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 proposal would allow him "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. Earlier Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told the board in a letter that the disruption that followed the ousting of the company's CEO "has gotten out of hand."

Patrick wrote that he isn't taking a view about who should lead 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."

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