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August 27. 2014 10:42PM

Multiple reports say deal reached for Arthur T. to buy Market Basket

A deal to sell the Market Basket chain to Arthur T. Demoulas for more than $1.5 billion has been reached, the Boston Herald reported late Wednesday night.

According to the Boston Globe, the deal was signed at a company board meeting.

The Globe reported that company shareholders announced a deal at 10 p.m. after days of negotiations. Arthur T. Demoulas and his siblings are to purchase the shares of Arthur S. Demoulas and his side of the family, who own 50.5 percent of the company.

In the months the deal will take to finalize, the Globe said Arthur T. will have to continue to work with co-CEOs James Gooch and Felicia Thornton — the people hired to replace him.

The agreement would give Arthur T. full authority to manage operations at the 71 stores, according to the Globe.

Earlier in the day, there were reports that the board discussed a contingency plan to shutter 61 of the chain’s stores, if an agreement wasn’t reached soon to sell the company.

“Knowing the board, they’ll probably throw darts at a map of Market Basket stores and see where it lands,” Peter Gulezian, store director at the Manchester store, said while quickly acknowledging he was joking.He said the standoff — which started in mid-July with picketing workers and boycotting customers — has left workers feeling “awful,” not knowing what will happen to them or their stores, about 30 in all, in New Hampshire.

“I can’t believe every day we wake up and we hear something different,” Gulezian said. “It seems to be getting worse and worse.”

Ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has been working to purchase a controlling interest in the chain from another faction of the family headed by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

New Hampshire store managers, meanwhile, report cash register receipts are down by as much as 98 percent from normal.

Neil Niman, chair of the economics department at the University of New Hampshire, said he was surprised the standoff lasted this long — almost six weeks. And with Arthur T. Demoulas reportedly taking on borrowing costs to help finance the deal, Niman questioned whether that would put in jeopardy the chain’s reputation of having low prices and high customer service.

“Will they be able to preserve the existing business model?” he said.

Jay Houle, front-end manager at the Epping Market Basket, said managers have checked on the availability of idled part-time workers returning to stores, but he was personally ignoring most of the daily rumors.

“I’m trying to stay away from it all, until I hear news from the right people,” Houle said.

At the busiest Market Basket store in New Hampshire, on South Broadway in Salem, Store Director Brian Casassa said his store includes many single-family parents and teenagers waiting to return to work while bills go past due.“There’s 25,000 people who just want their lives to get back to normal,” he said of the company-wide workforce.

Union Leader Staff Writer Michael Cousineau contributed to this report.



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