More than 1,000 employees, customers and store managers from around the region rallied at the Chelsea Market Basket parking lot on Tuesday afternoon in support of ousted DeMoulas President Arthur T. Demoulas.
Tom Trainor, a 41-year employee of Demoulas Market Basket, summed up the feeling of many employees at the rally Tuesday, saying, “I’ve been with the company 41 years and I’ve never been more proud of this company in the past year at the turnouts and the rallies. This is a great company. It’s more than a company, it’s a family and that’s what they don’t get. Yesterday (Monday) they fired one of the greatest men I’ve ever met – Arthur T. Demoulas. I felt like I was punched in the gut.”
The fate of the Market Basket Mall expansion plans in Chelsea, and the brand new but unopened Northgate Mall in Revere, hangs perilously in the balance this week as the DeMoulas family squabble that started last fall has ratcheted up a notch due to the sudden ouster of the company president and two other key executives on Monday.
The DeMoulas Board of Directors, controlled by Arthur S. DeMoulas, voted to fire President Arthur T. DeMoulas (Arthur S.’s cousin), and long-time executives William Marsden and Joe Rockwell.
There was no immediate statement from the Board or Arthur S. DeMoulas other than a terse statement saying Arthur T. DeMoulas had not been retained.
However, the ousted Arthur T. camp was very vocal – issuing a blistering statement, with some, such as long-time executive David McLean attending the Tuesday rally. McLean, who was instrumental in bringing the new Chelsea store to fruition several years ago, resigned his position on Monday in support of Arthur T. and the others.
Marsden, the former director of operations at DeMoulas, said the action by the Board was nothing but greed.
“The Board’s action Monday was driven by greed, pure and simple,” Marsden said. “Arthur T. Demoulas continued the tradition of his father, promising customers ‘More for Your Dollar.’ He was fired today after he built the most successful supermarket chain in the Northeast, one of the top in the country by most metrics. He is as committed to his customers as he is to his employees, his vendors, service providers and the communities in which we serve. He implemented a 4 percent across the board price cut for 2014 at a time when people needed it. In reaction, some Board Members threatened his job and litigation, so concerned were they that this would cut into the company’s profit.”
He added that those fired had a combined 110 years of experience, and he said he was fired for being devoted to Arthur T.
“Along with Arthur T. Demoulas, I was also fired as was Joe Rockwell, vice president of grocery,” Marsden said. “Combined we have more than 110 years of service to the company. Our crime was our commitment to Arthur T. Demoulas, the employees and the promise to customers to always honor the Market Basket commitment to high-quality and value.”
The battle lines were particularly harsh in the family battle.
Arthur T. DeMoulas was seen as wanting to continue the lucrative and popular employee profit sharing program, and to continue opening stores in areas like Revere and Lynn – as well as expanding the shopping center plan in Chelsea.
Arthur S. DeMoulas and the current Board has been seen as less open to the Chelsea and Revere expansion and to the employee profit sharing program that has existed for decades.
The Revere store was completed more than one year ago, but has never opened. It sits in the Northgate Mall on Squire Road like a ghost that never had the pleasure of living.
City Manager Jay Ash said he has always been impressed with Arthur T., or Artie, and continues to be loyal. He said the squabble has cost his City a lot of value in plans that are to come for the existing Chelsea shopping plaza.
“I’m very disappointed about the Market Basket decision and extremely concerned about the relationship we have with Market Basket now,” Ash said. “I have watched and admired Artie and have been so impressed with how he has grown the chain while remaining loyal to the core principles of keeping prices low and being a responsible employer…I worked very closely with Artie and his team on transforming the old, rundown mall into a shopping center that is the envy of everyone, and I do mean everyone.”
Ash said that before DeMoulas acquired the Mystic Mall in Chelsea, the best offers for the property were from a gigantic self-storage facility. That, he said, would have never allowed the area to attract a Starbucks, restaurants and, perhaps, the new FBI Regional Headquarters across the street. Now, he is worried that exciting future plans for remaining properties might be thrown out.
“We had big plans, together, for the future of the Mystic Mall, including a massive, mixed-use development there,” Ash said. “There is great value in that development for both Market Basket and the City. Artie and his team have led us, when we needed leading, and followed us, when we had the expertise to lead on our own. Those types of relationships are hard to come by and valuable when they develop. So, yes, I have concerns about what the future holds for shoppers, employees and communities that are lucky now to have a Market Basket in them.”
The Board put a new leadership team in place on Monday as well.
Felicia Thornton, a former Albertson’s Supermarkets executive, will take Arthur T.’s place as operating chief. Also, former Radio Shack Corp. president James Gooch will be the chief administrative officer.
There was no indication of what the future might hold for the unopened Revere store or for the expansion of the Chelsea property.