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Arthur S., relatives accuse Arthur T. of bad faith in Market Basket talks

Breaking their long silence in the fight over Market Basket, Arthur S. Demoulas and relatives on his side of the family said Saturday that they remain willing to sell their shares to Arthur T. Demoulas despite the acrimony of recent days.

But in a statement issued on behalf of the Class A, or majority, shareholders, Arthur S. and his relatives said they do not believe his cousin Arthur T., the company’s former president, has engaged with them in good faith and that hopes of a deal could be slipping away.

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“The Class B Shareholders have given us no choice at this time but to consider all available options to sell our equity in order to protect the interests of all Market Basket stakeholders,” the statement said.

The company’s board, controlled by Arthur S., has said it is evaluating several offers. Delhaize Group SA, the parent company of Hannaford Bros. Co., has emerged as a serious bidder, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The statement also said the Class A shareholders offered to provide financing, with terms including an interest-bearing loan secured by collateral with a payment schedule.

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The shareholders’ statement was the latest salvo in a war of words between the two sides of a bitter family feud over control of the multibillion-dollar company. Both sides have issued sharply worded statements in the past week blaming each other for the failure to reach a deal.

A spokewoman for Arthur T. Demoulas declined to comment late Saturday night.

The Class A shareholders, which consist of Arthur S. a small group of relatives, are the ones who supported Arthur T.’s firing, which triggered the crisis at the company.

Their statement was the first time that they have answered critics since the firing, saying that they, too, want to see the grocery chain return to business as usual.

“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,” their statement said. “We are, and have been, prepared to sell our majority ownership interest in Market Basket to the Class B Shareholders led by Arthur T. Demoulas for the price proposed by Arthur T. Demoulas. We offered deal terms that our nationally recognized financial advisors informed us are customary for this type of deal.”

Earlier Saturday, Market Basket’s three independent directors accused Arthur T. of holding employees and customers hostage.

“Business negotiations should not prevent our Associates from earning a living or our customers from buying groceries,” the three directors said in a statement. “It is wrong to hold everyone hostage to gain a negotiation advantage.”

The statement was unsigned, but the three independent members of the company’s seven-member board are Keith O. Cowan, Eric Gebaide, and Ronald G. Weiner.

Since his firing in June, Arthur T. has sought to purchase the half of the company controlled by allies of Arthur S. Meanwhile, the chain’s stores remain crippled by employee walkouts, customer boycotts, and empty shelves.

Arthur T. had offered to help end that crisis by rejoining the company as chief executive and reinstating managers loyal to him who were fired by the company’s new management team, even before a sale is completed. The board initially rejected that proposal, but the three independent directors said on Friday that Arthur T. should come back — just not as chief executive officer.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Arthur T. called the offer a disingenuous “attempt at window-dressing.”

“This is an attempt to have him stabilize the company while they consider selling it to another bidder,” the spokeswoman wrote, calling on the company to accept Arthur T.’s offer to return as CEO.

But even as the three directors slammed Arthur T.’s refusal to return in a non-executive role, they also struck a conciliatory tone.

“Clearly, each side has sets of proposals to solve the impasse — there are enough proposed solutions out there to begin a serious negotiation,” the statement said. “Let’s end the hostage-taking and get together to work at finding common ground. We are ready [to] meet, anytime, anywhere.”

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Find him on Twitter at @DanielAdams86. Casey Ross can be reached at casey.ross@globe.com.
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