Three Public Family Feuds Among Boston’s Most Powerful
The Demoulas Cousins
Market Basket, the most notorious name in New England supermarket history, traces its roots to 1917, when Greek immigrant Athanasios “Arthur” Demoulas opened a small shop in Lowell that sold fresh lamb straight from a local farm. Flash-forward two generations, and the company is doing some $5 billion in sales—more than enough money to trigger a family fracas.
For more than 15 years, cousins Arthur “Artie” T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas (both named after their grandfather) squandered part of the family fortune in a winner-take-all duel for control of the grocery dynasty. Tensions reached a head in 2014, when Arthur S. removed his cousin as CEO, sparking a two-month strike by supermarket employees and customers. The company lost about $580 million in sales.
Artie T. resumed control of the company’s 70-plus stores by buying out his cousin for an estimated $1.6 billion. Shelves are fully stocked once again.
The Depths of Debt
The Haseotes Family
With nearly 600 locations along the East Coast, Framingham-based Cumberland Farms is one of the country’s largest family-run convenience-store chains. It dates back to 1939, when Vasilios and Aphrodite Haseotes bought a cow, a calf, and a farm in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Now, two generations later, grandson Ari’s leadership as CEO has propelled the billionaire clan onto the Forbes 2015 list of America’s wealthiest families.
Before Ari stepped in and took the helm, the previous Haseotes generation weathered a decade of litigation. In the 1980s, Ari’s uncle, Demetrios, borrowed money from the company to go it alone and purchase an oil refinery—a disastrous move that was a major factor in the family business’s 1992 bankruptcy filing.
Cumberland’s creditors forced Demetrios out, and by 1998 the debts were repaid.
In 1938, Michael Redstone started out with a single drive-in movie theater. His son, Sumner, turned it into a global media empire. Today, the 92-year-old mogul is worth more than $5 billion and controls 80 percent of Norwood-based National Amusements, which owns Viacom (Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and more) and CBS television. Sumner’s locally based daughter, Shari, a 61-year-old divorced mother of three, owns the remaining 20 percent of the company.
Years ago, Shari was the heir apparent. But now things aren’t so certain. As Sumner’s health worsens, Shari will likely face a legal battle with company executives to determine the fate of her family’s kingdom. If Shari is anything like her father—he’s famously claimed that he plans to live forever—chances are she’ll fight to the death to keep the Redstone legacy alive.
To be determined.