Demoulas Family Feud, Rebooted

Is anyone surprised to see the Market Basket grocery family back in the news?

Boston seems to be releasing its Greatest Hits Album this summer, revisiting all of its most storied legal cases from the Boston Strangler to the crimes of Whitey Bulger. But of course the track list wouldn’t be complete without the Demoulas Family, owners of the Market Basket grocery empire, whose protracted legal dispute might, at this point, rival the cautionary Dickensian tale of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce.

Is there any trace of surprise that the dueling cousins Arthur T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas, who once engaged in a fistfight in the back of a courtroom, are at it again? Well, the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker admits that “Frankly, I thought the long-warring Demoulas clan had finally run out of stuff to go to war over.” Nevertheless, they’ve managed to dig something up. Arthur S., whose side recently reclaimed control of the board, is preparing to oust Arthur T., the company’s current CEO, at a meeting this Thursday. The Boston Globe summarizes the grievances:

[Arthur S.] is accusing him of steamrolling directors and spending money recklessly, including transactions with companies owned by his wife and brothers-in-law. They argue he must be removed to restore the board’s authority.

In a recent interview, Arthur T. Demoulas said that Market Basket has performed well under his five-year tenure as chief executive, recording net income of $217 million in 2012 on $4 billion in revenue. He said the deals involving his wife and brothers-in-law were fully vetted, and that relatives who oppose him are trying to enrich themselves at the company’s expense.

(Walker’s column has more on the accusations of family greed in this instance.)

All of this would seem juicy if it weren’t coming on the tail end of a decade-long family feud, which began when one of the two brothers who built the company died, and his branch of the family accused the remaining brother of defrauding them into giving up their 50-50 stake. What followed is a made-for-TV dispute, a “Greek tragedy” as Boston once described it, involving the aforementioned fistfight and a legal sideshow in which two lawyers for one side were disbarred for their attempts to discredit a judge who ruled against them. To get a real sense of just how low things got, read that old Boston piece on the court clerk whose life got needlessly upended by those lawyers. It’s definitely worth a coffee break this afternoon. After all, it’s the unofficial summer of catching up on Boston legal history.