Revisiting the Market Basket Saga


A tumultuous summer for Tewksbury, Mass.-based Market Basket saw its reins of leadership yanked from the hands of CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and placed in those of his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, following the June 23 ouster of Arthur T. and key members of his management team.

The leadership change that shifted control of the company?s board of directors from Arthur T. to Arthur S. brought the years-long simmering family feud between the two cousins to an abrupt boil, leading many observers to predict an ignominious end for the family-owned, 71-store New England grocery chain.

Although Arthur T. has since regained the company?s helm, following a $1.5 billion buyback, the Market Basket narrative signifies a telling ? and agonizing ? example of personal conflict disrupting company operations.

The struggle for Market Basket leadership brought to light a number of troubling issues, foremost of which was the unforeseen impact that executive-level decisions can have on store-level employees.

As evidenced by the spate of protests, rallies and stalled deliveries ? the last of which led to dwindling product on store shelves ? those loyal to Arthur T. made it abundantly clear that the ousting of their beloved leader would not go unfought.

Business as Usual?

According to PG Managing Editor Bridget Goldschmidt, who closely covered the story throughout the three-month stalemate, ?One of the most fascinating ? and potentially troublesome, at least according to some industry observers ? takeaways of the Market Basket saga is that it affirmed, in rather dramatic fashion, just how crucial it is for retailers to take into account the expectations and needs of their associates and shoppers when making business decisions.?

Further, although some might surmise that midsize regional retailers no longer play an integral role in shaping the ever-changing retail landscape, Goldschmidt says the Market Basket scenario affirms that?s far from true. To the contrary, she notes, ?The age of influential regional independent players is alive and well. Despite persistent rumors that large international retailers like Delhaize or Ahold might swoop in and buy up Market Basket?s stores, ultimately the chain ended up back in the experienced, local hands of Arthur T. ? which in the court of public opinion, is precisely where it belonged.?

In a Sept.12 interview with The Boston Globe, Arthur T. noted Market Basket?s stunning bounce-back since his reinstatement, with sales returning to ?100 percent of where they were last year. Bakery, produce and meat are mostly in. Everyone just got to it and worked as hard as they could.?

While the turmoil has since subsided and the company?s allied troops are resuming their roles with a business-as-usual approach, it remains to be seen how things will ultimately shake out in the years to come. For now, however, it appears that Market Basket is ready for the journey ahead.

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