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Workers spent much of Thursday loading up delivery trucks and getting food back into 71 New England Market Basket stores, following the remarkable conclusion of one of the most amazing stories in American business history.
In short, Arthur T. Demoulas is back in. More than six weeks after he was ousted as CEO by the Market Basket board, Wednesday night, company shareholders approved a deal in which Demoulas purchased a controlling stake in the company and returned as CEO.
Which meant that Thursday, many of the company's 25,000 workers were also back on the job.
"Oh yeah, I'm excited to get back to work," said Conor Keilty of Lowell. "My boss actually called me while I was here and she said, 'Can you come in tonight?' Yup! I'll be there."
Demoulas' initial ouster in June triggered a virtually unprecedented walk-out by loyal employees, customers and suppliers. The protest made national news. "This is the only time, to my knowledge, that employees, customers and suppliers have ever joined together and successfully challenged a board of directors," said Daniel Korschun, a marketing professor and fellow at Drexel University's Center for Corporate Reputation who is writing a case study about Market Basket.
"We all know all those fellows made history," said protest leader Steve Paulenka, who was back at work Thursday inside Market Basket's busy Tewksbury warehouse. "We had one focus for six weeks, and now the focus is to move forward, get these stores up as full as we can as fast as we can. We've been saying for six weeks we're the best in the business at this and it's time for us to step up to the plate and prove it."
Also to be proven is whether or not Arthur T. Demoulas can get Market Basket back on its feet financially. The company hemorrhaged millions of dollars in the six week stand off, and the deal he brokered involves hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and private equity. But Demoulas, who had not once spoken publicly throughout these many remarkable weeks, kept the focus on the people of Market Basket when he talked directly to his employees in Tewksbury for the first time today.
"Words cannot express how much I love you," Demoulas said to a cheering crowd. "May we always remember this past summer, first as a time where our collective values of loyalty courage and kindness for one another really prevailed and in that process we just happened to save our company."
John O'Dea, Market Basket manager in Wilmington.
Ted Clark, associate academic specialist and executive professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Northeastern University.
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