After a month of relative public silence as employees walked off the job, customers stayed away in droves, and shelves were stripped of fresh meat and produce, warring parties in the decades-long dispute for control of the 71-store Demoulas Market Basket chain fired off a volley of statements over the last five days as they jockeyed for position. A brief chronology:
Date: Friday, Aug. 8
Memorable line: “There is no reason not to meet in the middle.”
The current dispute in the decades-long battle for control of the $4.6 billion chain was set off in June, when directors loyal to Arthur S. Demoulas fired his cousin, Arthur T. Demoulas, who had been president of the chain, and replaced him with co-chief executives from outside the company. Senior management rebelled, refusing to work unless Arthur T. was reinstated, rallies were organized, deliveries to the stores dried up, and customers shopped elsewhere.
Arthur T. presented a plan to the board of directors to buy Arthur S.’s 50.5 percent of the company, and the board began evaluating other proposals -- even as the stores lost millions of dollars a day.
The board is made up of seven members -- two aligned with Arthur T., two with Arthur S., and three “independent” members, agreed to by both parties. In practice, however, the independent directors -- chairman Keith Cowan, Eric Gebaide, and Ronald Weiner -- vote with Arthur S. on most matters.
The three board members issued a statement saying, “as part of a continuing attempt to allow people to get back to their jobs and lives,” Arthur T. and his entire management team could return to work, “to address the tangible harm that has been visited on so many by so few.” The offer was made with one condition -- that Arthur T. would not be in charge during the so-called “interim period.” Instead, the chief executives hired when he was ousted, Felicia Thornton and James Gooch, would remain in charge.
“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 directors said.
Date: Friday, Aug. 8
Issuer: Arthur T. Demoulas
Memorable line: “This is far too serious a situation for these games and attempts at window dressing.”
An hour after the independent members’ statement, Arthur T. responded, calling the offer “disingenuous” and rejecting it as a sham designed to bring temporary peace to the company so the board could sell the chain to another bidder. Since his firing, the statement said, “the company has spiraled downward and Arthur T. has worked feverishly to purchase the company.” Each offer of his, he said, was rejected.
Date: Saturday, Aug. 9
Memorable line: “Arthur T. Demoulas’ conduct to date, including his most recent public statement, continues to undermine Market Basket.”
Arthur S. has remained far from the public eye during the dispute, even as his family’s life work crumbles around him. Moved “to correct the public record” by Arthur T.’s statement of the day before, Arthur S. said he is willing to sell to Arthur T. at the price Arthur T. has proposed, and expressed a willingness to provide financing -- secured by the proper collateral. “We care deeply about Market Basket, its employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders and have been working around the clock with our advisors to find a workable solution.”
Date: Sunday, Aug. 10
Issuer: Arthur T. Demoulas
Memorable line: “He cannot allow false information to have a negative impact on Market Basket Associates and other stakeholders.”
Arthur T. responded the next day, saying that while his “hope and intent” was that “this matter not be negotiated in the press,” he needed to correct the public record.
According to Arthur T., his offers have been rejected, not on the basis of price, but because he has been presented with “onerous terms” that have squelched a deal. “He further hopes that the next time either side is communicating in the press, it is to announce that his bid has been accepted and that he and his whole team are going in to stabilize the company.”
Date: Monday, Aug. 11
Issuer: The independent board members
Memorable line: “No more hostages: Day 3”
Arthur T.’s hopes were dashed when the independent directors fired back the next day -- restating the offer they made Friday to bring back Arthur T. and his team, and have them report to the current chief executives. “Three days ago, we offered a solution to the current standoff. We pledged to put everything on the table. All we asked for was an end to the standoff. ... It is time to get everyone back to work.”