Hundreds of sign-waving supporters of Market Basket president Arthur T. Demoulas surrounded the Wyndham Hotel in Andover Thursday in a showing of solidarity as the company’s board prepared to vote on firing him.
The board, which includes Demoulas’s first cousin, was expected to meet for several hours before deciding whether to remove him as leader of the family-owned supermarket company.
Some members of the family have accused Arthur T. Demoulas of spending company funds recklessly and refusing to accept the oversight of the board, reprising a 25-year-old feud over the company’s ownership and management.
Arthur T. has argued that his relatives, including cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, are motivated by a desire to gain greater control of the company to pay themselves hundreds of millions of dollars in distributions. The supermarket chain made a profit of $217 million in 2012 on $4 billion in revenue.
In Andover Thursday, board members arrived at the meeting to find hundreds of supporters chanting loudly in support of Arthur T. Many held signs saying “Save Market Basket” and gave emotional testimonials in support of his leadership.
“He’s the most honorable man I’ve ever met—loyal to his customers and employees,” said John Sevastis, 51, a store director in Fitchburg who has worked at the company for decades. “Mr. Demoulas has provided for our family, and we will never forget it.”
But other members of the family have argued that Arthur T. is anything but honorable. In court papers, they accuse him of “self-dealing” transactions in which he has directed funds to real estate businesses owned by his wife and brothers-in-law.
In the 1990s, Arthur T’s father, Telemachus Demoulas, lost a massive fraud lawsuit in which he was accused of stealing the ownership shares of his brother’s family, including Arthur S. Demoulas. At the time, Arthur T. was serving as president of a part of the company that received assets that were deemed to have been wrongfully transferred out of the control of Arthur S. and other relatives.
In recent years, Arthur T. has helped to expand the company, adding 12 new stores and renovating several others. Many employees said Thursday that the company—and their families—have prospered under his leadership.
“My husband has worked for this company for over 30 years,” said Noel Gordon. “He started as a sacker and has moved his way up. There are not many companies left where someone without a college degree can live the American dream, and he’s been able to do that.”Casey Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.