By Tony Schinella, Concord Patch Editor
If you thought the future of Market Basket was settled after its Board of Directors agreed to a multi-million payout to the family members that own the company, think again.
Employees of the company and three board members are exchanging letters and memos about the future of one of the largest independently owned and operated grocery store chain in the northeast that have been shared on the Save Market Basket Facebook site and have made news in the Boston business press and the Lowell Sun.
Market Basket has a location in Stratham.
Earlier this year, a long-standing family feud between cousins who are heirs of the founders let to a move by one, Arthur S. Demoulas, to oust the other, the current CEO of the company, Arthur T. Demoulas.
Employees worried that new corporate leaders would cut their profit sharing and bonus structure plans while customers of Market Basket also worried that the chain would raise prices on consumers.
The battle ended with the Board of Directors deciding not to replace the CEO. A few weeks later, it was revealed that several members of the founding family would receive a payout of $250 million, with the board engaging in a search for a firm to look for a potential new executive for the company. The money to family members was met with more worries from employees and also articles, editorials, and online comments by media outlets decrying the "greed" of the family.
Employees on the Facebook site began commenting on the family payout, wondering what it meant for their futures as well as the profit sharing plan that now has around $550 million in it, according to press reports.
Commenters on the site began to target three members of the board—Keith Cowan of Atlanta, Ga., Ron Wiener of Park Avenue in New York City, and Nabil El-Hage of Weston, Mass.—wondering why they would want to find new corporate leadership when Market Basket was thriving as a company.
The online comments prompted the three board members to send a letter to all the chain's employees telling them that they would be making decisions that were in “the best interest of Market Basket” while maintaining the store’s “More for Your Dollar” philosophy and commitment to customers.
The letter noted that the board of directors had adopted new standards for policies and practices and would be focusing on better auditing, compensation, and governance over its real estate holdings and business decisions in an effort to make sure there were not conflicts of interest and the best decisions were being made.
“We, like you, all want the best for Market Basket and are firmly committed to seeing Market Basket continue to thrive as New England’s leading grocery chain,” the three stated.
Commenters on the Facebook site said the letter from the three members raised more questions than answers about the future of the stores, its workers, and their current compensation plans. Employees countered with a two-page letter of their own, questioning the news structure proposals and looking for commitments to employees.
“We respectfully request that you show yourselves,” the letter stated. “Come out of the shadows and tell us who you are and why you are on a board in what we believe to be the ruining of a great American company.”