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US supermarket dynasty reach stalemate

The chief executive of Market Basket will remain head of the family business for now, despite a marathon board meeting where his cousin attempted to oust him from the role.

The chief executive of Market Basket will remain head of the family business for now, despite a marathon board meeting on Thursday where his cousin attempted to oust him from the role.

The US-based chain of supermarkets was ordered by the courts to hold a board meeting following their long-running disputes, with some board members stating incumbent president, Arthur T DeMoulas, was spending money recklessly and ignoring the advice of the board.

After a 12-hour debate among the company's seven board members, including four family members, DeMoulas was able to hold on to his job for the time being, but the board will reconvene on 22 August.

Outside the meeting, held at a Massachusetts hotel, hundreds of employees turned out in support of their president, many holding placards saying ‘Save Market Basket’. An online petition supporting DeMoulas has attracted 44,000 signatures.

DeMoulas' detractors accused him of spending millions of dollars for company development projects on real estate businesses owned by his wife and his brothers-in-law, and also of mismanaging the company's employee profit-sharing scheme.

He argued that his real-estate dealings had been full regulated and approved by an outside arbiter, and said his family wanted to wrest control of the company from him to pay themselves larger dividends.

DeMoulas said in a statement he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. “I hope to work constructively with the board going forward. It is my desire to continue to look out for the best interest of our customers and employees."

The attempted coup was lead by DeMoulas' cousin Arthur S DeMoulas. The two men's fathers founded the chain, and the two branches of the family have kept a healthy feud running for decades.

Despite this, the company has seen revenues of more than $4 billion (€3.1 billion) annually, increasing by one third in the five years Demoulas has been president.

Ari Axelrod of Banyan Family Business Advisors said: "Generally, diversity of opinions is productive. But without effective mechanisms for conflict resolution, without a culture of constructive competition of ideas, any conflict can turn into a destructive feud."

Axelrod thought changing the mix of the board might break the stalemate. "By bringing in outside perspective that is not clouded by insular priorities, non-family board members play a critical role in refocusing attention from internal tensions to external competition," he said. 

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