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Govs Weigh in on Market Basket Mess


Amid continuing employee protests and troubling allegations of major discrepancies in vendor payments under Market Basket's recently installed management team, the news that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and his New Hampshire counterpart, Maggie Hassan, joined the negotiations this past weekend to help broker a deal between the two Demoulas factions can only be seen as a good thing –- although it's lamentable that the situation has deteriorated to the point where such intervention is warranted.

"The parties have made real progress on the terms of the sale and operating control of the company, and the governors are encouraged that a resolution may be within reach," according to a spokesman for Gov. Patrick. Meanwhile, Gov. Hassan characterized the part-time employee layoffs that occurred earlier this month as devastating to all involved parties: “While this may be a private business dispute, it is having a significant financial impact on New Hampshire –- on our families, consumers, farmers and other vendors -– and it will create new costs for the state's Unemployment Trust Fund."

Consequently, while the governors' involvement is a logical next step, the fact that Market Basket's family feud has morphed into a multistate political issue is surely a torturous outcome for the privacy-loving leadership on both sides of the tussle.

Local commentators Peter Cohan, a management consultant and venture capitalist, and Ian Cross, a senior lecturer at Bentley University in marketing and branding, believe that the real winners in all of this are Market Basket's competitors, which have benefited from the stores' empty shelves and adverse publicity. Cohan thinks the best course of action for the company would be to cut its losses and sell to a third party (Delhaize Group was recently reported to be a contender), and that Arthur T.'s chances of regaining control are negligible, while Cross is of the opinion that even if Arthur T. is reinstated, he won't be left with much to run.

As the industry waits for a deal that will place Arthur T. back in charge –- where Market Basket workers, most of its shoppers and many canny politicians feel he belongs –- the company, in whatever form it finds itself, must prepare to undertake the hard work of regaining public trust and rising above its recent bad press, and if it can't, even the return of Arthur T. won't be able to make things right.

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