TEWKSBURY, Mass. — The board of directors of Demoulas Supermarkets here has voted to engage an executive recruiting firm in what may mean a threat to embattled chief executive Arthur T. Demoulas.
A source briefed on the retailer’s board meeting Aug. 22 said the engagement of Spencer Stuart “could be to clean house from the top down,” although there was no indication from the retailer or its board this was necessarily the case. Arthur T. Demoulas has been under fire since control of the retailer’s board of directors shifted to a rival faction controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. That group considered a motion to oust Arthur T. Demoulas at the company’s July board meeting.
In addition to the engagement of Spencer Stuart, the board approved a $250 million dividend, moved to establish a line of credit for the company, and voted to replace two of the three trustees overseeing the retailer’s profit-sharing plan, sources said. Arthur T. Demoulas has argued against all of these measures, according to court documents filed this summer related to the longstanding dispute between the Demoulas cousins. The company currently holds no debt, and is known for a generous profit-sharing plan that has won Arthur T. the admiring support of company employees.
Demoulas operates 71 Market Basket stores in New England and has flourished behind rapid expansion in recent years. However, some have suggested the company could have taken more opportunity of the struggles of competitors in recent years, as companies like Price Chopper and Wakefern’s PriceRite and ShopRite banners have begun to move into New England.
“I think Arthur S. gaining control of Market Basket is going to be constructive moving forward,” Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, New York, told SN in a recent interview. “While Demoulas has done well against international and regional competition, the company has missed some key opportunities by not investing more aggressively in the business.”
The Demoulas board is scheduled meet again on Sept. 19.
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