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Market Basket board still ponders sale offers

Bid by ousted leader reportedly the focus

Negotiations over the fate of the embattled Market Basket grocery chain stretched into a second day Tuesday, as the company’s board said the owners were evaluating a sale to help rescue the multibillion-dollar business.

As analysts warn that the value of the company falls and the threat to workers’ jobs rises with each day of indecision, the board said it was still considering offers by ousted president Arthur T. Demoulas and other suitors. People familiar with the talks said Demoulas’s offer was the focus of discussions throughout the day.

RELATED: Read the board’s full statement

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Demoulas has proposed purchasing the 50.5 percent interest in the company owned by cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and his side of the feuding family.

Tensions between the two family factions came through in a statement issued by the board Tuesday afternoon. It noted that Arthur T.’s bid “provides a path toward solving many of the problems he has helped to create.”

Those problems continued to mount Tuesday. Walkouts by employees and boycotts by supportive customers have left many stores nearly empty of both food and shoppers, costing the company millions of dollars every day.

RELATED: Meet the Market Basket board members

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Many employees and customers have said they will not come back until Arthur T. is reinstated as president. It is unclear how much longer the company’s 71 supermarkets in New England can remain open given its broken supply chain, which has prevented food from making it from warehouses into stores.

At locations in Chelsea and Somerville Tuesday, the bakery and produce sections had no products and few customers. Small groups of protesters held signs supporting Arthur T. in front of the stores, while inside employees scrubbed empty dairy and meat racks and chatted with one another to pass the time.

The family members who continue to fight over the company remained silent Tuesday, as their advisers tried to work out a deal to prevent a catastrophic loss in the company’s value. The price of Arthur T.’s offer has not been disclosed. But industry analysts last week put the company’s total value at $3 billion to $3.5 billion.

RELATED: A look at the company’s shareholders

In its statement, the board of directors acknowledged a fact that has become abundantly clear: It has no power to compel family members to sell their shares to their nemesis to prevent its collapse.

“The board will continue to evaluate all of the alternatives and ultimately make its recommendation to shareholders,” the statement said. “However, the board has no authority or right to force shareholders to accept an offer as that decision rests solely with the company’s shareholders.”

While talks continued over Arthur T.’s offer to buy all the shares of his relatives, people commenting on a Save Market Basket Facebook page hoped for a third option: The former president could buy just the shares of Rafaela Evans, a sister-in-law of Arthur S. whose allegiances have shifted between the two Arthurs over the years.

“I hope she sees what’s going on and becomes involved in the process to get Arthur T. back,” said David McLean, the former operations manager of Market Basket who resigned when Arthur T. was fired. “This company is nose-diving now, and it was soaring when he was in charge.”

RELATED: The state of the Market Basket standoff

Evans once voted her company shares in solidarity with Arthur T. But she changed sides last year, a development that enabled Arthur S. to gain control of the company and fire his cousin as president.

Business specialists have warned that the value of Market Basket will continue to plummet if the Demoulas family and company directors do not reach a resolution within days.

Such a loss in value could scare off any outside bidders that have expressed interest in buying the business.

The consequences of the company’s collapse would extend far beyond the family. Market Basket has more than 25,000 employees and a web of suppliers that extends throughout New England, from small farms to large food producers that supply everything from bread to dairy products to meat, fish, and frozen foods.

Though it issued a statement regarding the sale process, the board of directors did not hold a formal meeting Tuesday. Even if the board does help to arrange a sale — to Arthur T. or another bidder — a decision to accept or reject any offer will ultimately be made by shareholders within the family. The shares are owned by Arthur T., Arthur S., and their siblings, and Evans and members of her family.

Casey Ross can be reached at Jack Newsham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.
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