NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 18, 2013

Our view: The battle for Market Basket

It may be among the unlikeliest of battles. A grocery-chain family takes its internal feud public, and the public jumps in with both feet.

There’s a family fight playing out now that consumers across Massachusetts and New Hampshire believe they have a real stake in.

The outcome of the Demoulas family battle, which pits cousin against cousin, could have an effect on consumer spending throughout the 71-store Market Basket chain.

The chain’s board of directors was expected to vote today on whether to replace CEO Arthur T. Demoulas with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

Ordinarily, family in-fighting is no concern of ordinary citizens. But Market Basket customers are a loyal bunch. And they’re loyal for one primary reason: low prices.

Threaten people’s pocketbooks and their ears perk up.

There’s been bad blood within the family for decades, but the chain has continued to grow.

And with that growth have come new, larger stores and a swelling consumer base loyal to the brand.

Add in longtime employees who fear what changes may come under a new CEO and you have a very public fight. An online petition to “Save Market Basket” had nearly 40,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon. Store workers and others have stationed themselves outside the grocery stores this week to collect more signatures to present to the directors in advance of their vote.

Some employees, including Alex Butler, who works at the Danvers store, have stepped up to speak, presumably at some employment risk should the directors opt to replace one cousin with the other.

But, Butler said this week, “There are a lot of good people working for this company. And they’ve really taken care of me.”

Managers and employees took out full-page ads yesterday in The Daily News and sister papers supporting Arthur T. Demoulas and pleading with the Board of Directors: “Do not jeopardize our future.”

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