We Are Market Basket

The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business

 We Are Market Basket

Authors: Daniel Korschun, Grant Welker
Pub Date: August 2015
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814436653
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814436684

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The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement that Saved a Beloved Business

On June 23, 2014, after overseeing six years of double-digit growth as CEO and more than forty years with the company his grandfather founded, Arthur T. Demoulas is fired by the board of Market Basket, a $4.5 billion supermarket powerhouse. The campaign for his termination was orchestrated by Arthur T.’s rival and cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. Within days, associates at the chain’s 71 stores across Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine wage a battle to bring back Arthur T. Within weeks, rallies command the parking lots of Market Basket’s headquarters and supermarkets, attracting thousands. Comprised of a mix of employees—part-time clerks, truck drivers, administrative staff, store directors, and senior managers—along with local suppliers and lifelong customers, the crowds of protesters wave signs proclaiming: “We Are Market Basket.”

What inspired such fervent loyalty to a grocery chain? Why would hundreds of employees, from upper-level executives to warehouse workers, risk unemployment to support a billionaire CEO? In WE ARE MARKET BASKET: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement that Saved a Beloved Business (AMACOM 2015), Daniel Korschun, a business scholar, and Grant Welker, a journalist who covered this saga as it unfolded, present a gripping account of the unprecedented protest that saved Market Basket. Throughout, the authors shed light on the forces behind this unusual, supportive boycott: a formidable family dispute and a potent company culture, based on service to the community, employee empowerment, unconventional solutions to problems, and a genuine sense of family.

Tracing the history of the Demoulas family and the company they built, WE ARE MARKET BASKET begins in 1917 in Lowell, Massachusetts. In this economically hard-hit mill town, Greek immigrants Athanasios “Arthur” and Efrosine Demoulas open a grocery store with a commitment to serving working-class families. In 1954, their sons, George and Telemachus, take over the family business and lead it through an exciting period of expansion, from one tiny store to more than 50 supermarkets. After learning the business from the bottom up, working first in the warehouse and then as a sacker and clerk in the stores, Telemachus’ only son, Arthur T., carries on the tradition established by his grandparents: “people first, groceries second.” Arthur T.’s philosophy sharply contrasts with that of his cousin, George’s son, Arthur S. A student of finance and business, Arthur S. places top priority on serving the financial needs of shareholders.

Packed with candid observations and insider details on the protest from both executive-level leaders and parking lot participants, WE ARE MARKET BASKET recounts:

• How Arthur S. used a slim majority shareholder stake—50.5 percent—to seize control of the board and launch a bold plan to shift liquidity to benefit his side of the family shareholders, starting with a proposed $300 million cash payment.

• How the Market Basket protest began with a Facebook page, spread into the streets, flooded the press, and eventually compelled high-ranking politicians—including the Governor of Massachusetts—to step in and take a stand.

• How loyalty for Arthur T. inspired hundreds of warehouse workers to walk out—effectively clearing store shelves and slashing the chain’s sales, typically in the neighborhood of $75 million per week, by 90 percent—and eighteen senior managers to place solidarity above their jobs.

• How the protesters prevailed. On August 17, 2014, Arthur T. regained control of Market Basket, buying Arthur S.’s shares for an estimated $1.5 billion.

Filled with stunning twists, WE ARE MARKET BASKET is a gripping tale of bad blood and corporate greed with lessons for business leaders, managers, and advocates of both stakeholder and shareholder philosophies. “Above all,” Korschun and Welker assert, “the story forces us to rethink who really owns a company and who gets to decide how it is run.”

About the Authors

DANIEL KORSCHUN is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and a Fellow of both the Center for Corporate Reputation Management and the Center for Corporate Governance. He lives in Philadelphia. GRANT WELKER is an award-winning journalist who covered the Market Basket story from the start as a reporter for the Lowell Sun. He lives in Boston.

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