Ousted But Popular CEO Buys Back Company, Ending Six-Week Supermarket Standoff

Shoppers in New England can once again get groceries and workers can return to their jobs, as the supermarket saga that has been unfolding in three states for over a month has now come to a happy end. Inelegantly ousted but apparently beloved CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has reached an agreement with the board of the company to buy it back for $1.5 billion and regain control.

Regional grocery store chain Market Basket, which has 71 locations in three states, is the stage on which the latest act of a forty-year-long family feud has played out.

The TL;DR version of the story (which we outlined here in July) is that two brothers owned the company and eventually their sons, cousins both named Arthur, inherited. One family played shenanigans with the money, the other family sued, and relations have been acrimonious for quite some time.

One of the cousins, Arthur T. Demoulas, was named CEO of the company in 2008. Since then, he has had a reputation for being a good, honest boss and the company has become known for providing its workers good pay and benefits. The chain has also kept prices down in stores and remained financially healthy.

The other cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, gained control of the company board and threw out Arthur T. earlier this year. Employees at every level, both in the home office and also in the stores, walked off the job in protest of the new regime. Despite firings and even more threats of firings, shelves have remained empty and business at Market Basket more or less ground completely to a halt as protests continued. Workers and some customers had exactly one demand: bring back Arthur T.

The workers won. In a statement today, Market Basket confirmed that Arthur T. Demoulas and his siblings will be buying the majority shares of the company back from Arthur S. and his family, and effective immediately Arthur T. is back at the helm. Employees who were fired over the protests will also be restored to their positions, the Boston Globe reports.

It will take time for operations to return to normal, as the Boston Globe reports. After six weeks off, suppliers will have to scramble to get everything running smoothly again.

The sustained protests — and their success — are noteworthy for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s uncommon for low-ranking workers to care that strongly about which executive is at the helm. Employees were not advocating for pay raises or changes to working conditions, but for change at the very top level of the company. Secondly, Market Basket employees are not unionized. As such, they had no legal protection for a strike. En masse, many went without pay and put their jobs on the line for Arthur T.

Market Basket deal ends bitter feud [Boston Globe]