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Demoulas redux

There are, indeed, a few constants in life. Among them: taxes, death, and the Demoulases.

Yes, fight fans, those dysfunctional Demoulases are again clogging up our courts with their family feud. Judge Allan van Gestel, who oversees the business court and has to wade through this muck, is clearly annoyed by ''yet another round in the seemingly never-ending internecine battles among members of the Demoulas family." Wrote van Gestel: ''It must be clear to all members of the Demoulas family that accommodation, not acrimonious litigation, is in their ultimate best interest and in the interest of [Demoulas Super Markets] and the very many employees who depend upon it. But only the family members can bring about such accommodation."

Fat chance. My solution: meat cleavers in Aisle 9. Arthur S. Demoulas vs. his cousin Arthur T. Demoulas, winner take all. Messy for sure, but quicker and more economical. And it has a finality the courts will never offer this mad bunch.

The Demoulases spent a decade battling in the most expensive lawsuit in Massachusetts history. Arthur S. (a.k.a. ''the Good Arthur") decisively beat family patriarch Telemachus ''Mike" Demoulas and his son, Arthur T. (''the Bad Arthur") through six trials to reclaim his branch of the family's place in the business. But now, four years after the end of the last appeal, Arthur S. is suing not only his cousin but most of his fellow directors at the $2 billion supermarket chain. The nub of this new grudge match: Arthur T.'s plans to put his Demoulas shares in trust so that he can compete against the company his family built.

According to documents in Suffolk Superior Court, Arthur T. in a September 2002 memo to the board said he wanted to resign from the company and put his shares in trust to facilitate his ''desire to have the freedom to pursue [his] own interests with the same type of business as [Demoulas] or any other type of business." While the board at first rejected Arthur T.'s request to put his shares in trust rather than offer them back to the company, the board a month later approved the plan, 5 to 2. Arthur S. then sued his cousin and the directors, saying the vote would leave Arthur T. free to compete with Demoulas in real estate and ''would impose restrictions of little practical significance" on his ability to compete in supermarkets.

What Arthur S.'s suit demonstrates clearly is that while he may have won high-profile battles in the courtroom, he continues to lose private battles in the boardroom. ''The five defendant directors constitute a majority of the seven-member board," Arthur S. says in his complaint. ''They have consistently advanced the interest of Arthur T.'s branch of the Demoulas family at the expense of [the company] and its other shareholders." The five directors see it differently. ''The directors made a business decision in the best interest of Demoulas and its stakeholders," they reply.

Interestingly, in a Greek family long run by the men, it is a woman -- the widow -- who has been important in the balance of power between Arthur S. and Arthur T. According to Arthur S.'s suit, his brother's widow, Rafaele Demoulas (once the lead plaintiff in Arthur S.'s suit against Mike Demoulas & Co.) now ''participates in a voting alliance" with Arthur T. that allows them to control the board. Arthur S.'s rift with his sister-in-law grows out of his failed attempt to oversee the trust that controls her daughter's shares. The moral: If you shoot at the widow, don't miss.

Final briefs are due soon, and then van Gestel will rule, followed by the obligatory appeal.

And then there is another suit playing out in Middlesex Superior Court in which a New Hampshire man accuses Arthur T. of stealing his business, Monadnock Mountain Spring Water Co., and costing him his home. But that is another saga for another day.

Steve Bailey is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at bailey@globe.com or at 617-929-2902.

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