What’s taking so long with Market Basket?

Bakery manager Meghan Crepeau works the cash register at a mostly empty Market Basket store in Billerica.
Bakery manager Meghan Crepeau works the cash register at a mostly empty Market Basket store in Billerica.Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

In the most trusting of families, finalizing the sale of a business as big as Market Basket would require several days of tedious negotiations.

In the fractured Demoulas family, it is no surprise it’s taking a little longer than that.

The negotiations over the sale of the 71-store, multibillion-dollar supermarket empire involve at least four law firms, two New-York based investment advisors, three public relations businesses, and more than nine family shareholders who have been fighting each other for nearly 25 years.

People familiar with the process say the parties are now down to the final details. But those details are proving difficult to iron out, as red-lined versions of the stock purchase agreement fly back and forth among attorneys in Boston and elsewhere.


Arthur T. Demoulas and his sisters are trying to buy the 50.5 percent of Demoulas Supermarkets Inc., the formal name of Market Basket, controlled by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and other members on Arthur S.’s side of the family. Arthur T. has offered to pay them more than $1.5 billion.

The parties must agree on the purchase agreement as well as a separate plan to bring Arthur T. back to the company during the deal’s closing period to help stabilize the company’s operations. An employee walk-out and customer boycotts have continued to cost the grocery chain millions of dollars a day in lost business.

On Friday, Arthur T. made a final offer that removed a key stumbling block by including about $550 million in financing from an unidentified private equity firm. That money replaced seller financing that would have required Arthur S. and his relatives to lend money to Arthur T.’s side to help complete the deal.

The rest of the money for the purchase will come from a cash payment by Arthur T. and his three sisters -- Frances Kettenbach, Glorianne Farnum, and Caren Pasquale --and a mortgage loan secured by the company’s real estate holdings in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.


After speaking with the parties on Friday, the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire predicted that a deal would be reached by Sunday and that workers would back at their jobs early this week.

But an agreement has proved more elusive than that. On Monday and Tuesday, the Demoulas family members and their lawyers negotiated nearly around the clock, but, as of noon Wednesday, they were still working out a few sticking points.

Arthur T. is represented by the firm of Skadden Arps in Boston. The board of directors is working with Ropes & Gray in Boston, and shareholders on Arthur S.’s side of the family -- Arthur S. and his sisters, Diana Merriam and Fotene Demoulas -- have retained the firm Jones Day. Over the years, Arthur S. also has worked with the firm Davis, Malm & D’Agostine.

Meanwhile, Rafaela Evans, Arthur S.’s sister-in-law, has her own separate legal adviser.

At several point in the last couple of days, Market Basket’s board has scheduled meetings to take up the sale agreement, but it canceled each of those sessions after learning the parties had not yet reached an accord. Once the shareholders reach agreement, the board would act to put in motion plans to stabilize the company and return it to business.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.