Market Basket Board Will Consider Buyout Bid by Arthur T., Others: Ash Adds to the Locals Boycotting the Beloved Supermarket

City Manager Jay Ash said this week that he has also been boycotting the Market Basket store in Chelsea and all others until the strife between owners, former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and employees is reconciled.

Ash joins Council President Matt Frank, who said last week he would no longer be shopping at Market Basket as long as the problems continue.

“I am boycotting the Market Basket,” Ash said this week. “I have not been to a Market Basket since this happened, and my wallet feels it, but I’m totally behind Arthur T. and the employees. I believe in what they are doing and support them by boycotting the store.”

That, however, isn’t such a hard thing to do at the Chelsea store.

Few people ever thought they would walk into the ever-crowded supermarket here and find no customers. That has been just the case over the past two weeks.

And not only are there no customers, but also – more importantly – there is very little food. Bakery, meat and dairy ailes are bare. Employees who haven’t walked out or been fired kill time by cleaning rather than stocking shelves.

That’s all because the trucks that used to run so regularly between Chelmsford and Chelsea are no longer running – with key employees in the distribution operations walking out or being fired.

All in all, the company – which has been a giant in Chelsea and is often affectionately referred to as “the Basket” – is undisputedly tanking before everyone’s eyes.

Earlier this week, the Board for the company released a statement that they were considering buyout bids, including one from ousted and popular former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

“As the Board has previously noted, it is currently engaged in a rigorous and active process to consider strategic alternatives for the Company, including its possible sale,” read the prepared statement. “Despite reports to the contrary, Arthur T. Demoulas is but one of several potential buyers for the Company who continue to express a strong interest in purchasing the Company. While Mr. Demoulas’ offer provides a path toward solving many of the problems he has helped to create, it is but one alternative among the options the Board is reviewing. The Board will continue to evaluate all of the alternatives and ultimately make its recommendation to shareholders. However, the Board has no authority or right to force shareholders to accept an offer as that decision rests solely with the Company’s shareholders.”

The Boston Globe reported that the Board is considering many options, but mostly has been talking about the Arthur T. bid, which the Globe said would comprise him buying 50.5 percent of his family members’ shares. The Globe reported also that the entire value of the company is likely $3 billion – making the cost of the bid potentially $1.5 billion.

That discussion has led to wrangling on the board – which is made up of family members and in-laws – about certain members switching loyalties between the much-talked-about rivalry between Arthur T. and his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, who seized control of the Board last summer in a move that triggered the current turmoil.

The Globe reported that the power grab occurred when one Board member, Rafaela Evans, switched her long-time allegiance from Arthur T. to Arthur S. last summer.

Some company strategists – including former long-time employee Dave McLean (who spearheaded the construction and opening of the new Chelsea store) – have advocated publicly for Evans, a sister-in-law to Arthur S., to sell out her shares to Arthur T. That, McLean said, would give Arthur T. control of the company once again without the expense and aggravation of having to buy out all of the Arthur S. camp.

Whatever the final result, most everyone familiar with the situation – including suppliers, farmers and even neighboring businesses in Chelsea – are calling for a speedy end to the problems. Not only is the overall profile of the Market Basket company tanking, but also those who have depended on it for business and customers.

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