‘Onerous’ terms prolong standoff, Arthur T. says
Arthur T. Demoulas said Sunday that negotiations on his offer to buy the Market Basket grocery chain from rival family members are continuing, but he accused those relatives of countering his proposal with “onerous” terms that are blocking a deal from being completed.
Demoulas made that claim in the latest of what has become a battle of press statements waged by either side of the family.
Through a spokeswoman, Arthur T. Demoulas said he has not lowered the amount of his initial bid to buy the shares of his family members.
The company has lost tens of millions of dollars in the past six weeks while Demoulas and his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, have continued to fight over it. The decades-long feud became more heated in late June, when the company’s board, controlled by Arthur S., fired Arthur T. as president. That led to an employee walkout by workers sympathetic to Arthur T. that has paralyzed operations and prevented fresh food from getting to store shelves.
Business has dropped precipitously at the 71-store chain, which has 25,000 employees in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. The company has told thousands of part-time employees that they should not expect to work this week because of a lack of customers.
Arthur T. has offered to settle the matter by purchasing the 50.5 percent of the company controlled by rival family members. He said Sunday that he still wants that to happen.
“It is Arthur T. Demoulas’ hope that the Arthur S. Demoulas family will come to the table to reach a final agreement on reasonable terms before it is too late to save this company,” his spokeswoman said in the statement. “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.”
Arthur S. could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a statement late Saturday, he and other shareholders on his side of the family accused Arthur T. of failing to negotiate in good faith. They said their deal terms were “customary” for the type of transaction they are trying to finalize.
Neither side has specified what is at issue, though one point of disagreement appears to be when, and in what capacity, Arthur T. would be able to return to the company.
He has offered to come back immediately as president, but Arthur S. and other members of the board of directors said he could only assume a less formal role to help stabilize operations.
Despite their dueling characterizations of sale terms, Arthur S. and Arthur T. have both said they want to strike an agreement that will enable Arthur T. to buy and manage the company. But they appear unwilling, or unable, to communicate directly with each other to reconcile their differences.
On Friday, Governor Deval Patrick offered to help with negotiations, saying the dispute “has gotten out of hand” and is hurting customers and employees. Neither side has said publicly whether they want the governor’s assistance.
Arthur S. and relatives aligned with him have said they will consider selling their shares to other bidders that have expressed interest in the company.
The parent of Hannaford Bros., Delhaize Group SA, of Belgium, is among the other potential buyers, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
But it is not known whether any outside suitors would seek to lower their prospective bids for the company, given the heavy financial losses it has suffered in recent weeks.