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August 27. 2014 11:46PM

Market Basket deal reached; Arthur T. Demoulas to return


Manchester Market Basket worker Jim Blais cleans a window with a poster of Arthur T. displayed Thursday morning. (Michael Cousineau/Union Leader)

Arthur T. Demoulas made a deal late Wednesday night to acquire 50.5 percent ownership of Market Basket for $1.5 billion.

“Effective immediately, Arthur T. Demoulas is returning to Market Basket with day-to-day operational authority of the company,” a joint statement from Market Basket and Demoulas said. “He and his management team will return to Market Basket during the interim period while the transaction to purchase the company is completed.”

It added: “All associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations.”

Current co-CEOs James Gooch and Felicia Thornton will remain in place pending the closing, “which is expected to occur in the next several months,” the statement said.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick immediately weighed in.

“Market Basket is a major employer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and an important local resource for the communities the company serves,” they said in a joint statement. “We are delighted that the parties have reached agreement on terms of sale and resolution of operating authority, so that employees can return to work and customers will once again be able to rely on these stores to meet their needs.”

Keith O. Cowan, chairman of the board of Demoulas Super Markets, praised the governors for their help.

"Governor Patrick and Governor Hassan worked tirelessly and creatively to help shareholders find solutions that brought them together to reach agreement," Cowan said in a statement. "The entire Board appreciates their time and level of attention. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of New Hampshire should understand that the Governors' commitment and engagement made a significant difference. The beneficiaries of their efforts are the 25,000 associates of Market Basket, its two million customers and all of the communities it serves."

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

Earlier Wednesday, there were reports that the board discussed a contingency plan to shutter 61 of the chain’s 71 stores, if an agreement wasn’t reached 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 — had left workers feeling “awful,” not knowing what will happen to them or their stores, about 30 in all, in New Hampshire.

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.

That concern appeared to addressed in the statement released by Arthur T. Demoulas and Market Basket Wednesday night.

“The shareholders and the company would like to thank Market Basket customers and partners for their strong support through the years. Our shared goal is to return Market Basket to the supermarket that its customers have come to rely on for service, quality and best prices. We look forward to seeing you at your local Market Basket.”



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