Category Archives: Politics, Religion & Money

Market Basket orders customers back to stores!

The Market Basket saga continues. The latest is that Governor Deval Patrick is calling for workers to return to their jobs, but that position seems to reflect the Arthur S. Demoulas side of the feud, and Patrick’s wife works for the law firm that represents Arthur S.

The Guardian has information about Market Basket that I haven’t seen before. Apparently, Arthur T. made an ill-timed 2008 investment of the $46m employee trust fund in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/aug/14/market-basket-arthur-millions-investing-protests

The timing of the investment was disastrous. Only months after Demoulas poured Market Basket’s profits into Fannie and Freddie, the US government took over the two companies, wiped out their preferred stock so that it was worth zero, and made them wards of the state. The upshot: Market Basket’s entire profit-sharing plan was lost in the stock market…

Moah foah yoah dollah

For ten years, living in our first house, Market Basket was the only convenient supermarket. It’s a local, family-owned chain with the slogan “More For Your Dollar.” The way the store manager pronounced it, with his Boston accent, made it sound like the title of this post.

Although Market Basket’s prices are lower than elsewhere, we had some complaints, including consistently stale and sometimes spoiled food. Over the 15+ years since we moved, the chain has expanded and, we have been told, improved, especially since Arthur T. Demoulas became CEO in 2008. That must be true, because Consumer Reports now places Market Basket sixth in its supermarket ratings.

After decades of one faction of the family battling the other for control of the Market Basket chain, they have finally succeeded, and the non-union, multi-billion dollar business instantly began to fall apart. Why? Because the unprecedented thing about this crisis is that the employees, managers and hourly workers alike, are protesting for the return of the former CEO. Here’s some background from PRI’s The World, a radio show produced in Boston by WGBH.

The Market Basket in Somerville that’s featured in the story is where my friend Morris shops, or shopped, and having the place essentially shut down is big inconvenience for him.

The Arthur S. side of the family, now in control, is killing the golden goose — the goose that Artie T. made possible through his excellent management. This situation can’t go on for much longer, and whatever the outcome, it is destined to become a case study in every business school. If Arthur S., and the board of directors he controls, have any sense at all, they will accept Artie T’s offer to buy them out.

My hope is that Warren Buffett is going to step in and give Arthur T. the leverage he needs to push his cousin out the door.

Cerfing the Net

It’s going to be a while, probably well into 2015, before we see Stephen Colbert on CBS, shorn of his faux cable news persona. The truth is that I am rarely staying up late enough on weeknights anymore to watch Colbert, so I use the DVR catch up on the weekends.

Internet pioneer Vint Cerf was on The Colbert Report recently, and although he was interesting he took too much credit for himself and Bob Kahn. Why no mention of Bob Taylor, who originally envisioned the Arpanet and got it up and running before joining Xerox PARC? Cerf should also have given an up-front shout-out to Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web which is, let’s face it, what most people think the Internet is.

Biased for neutrality

Now that Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, is agreeing to pay cable TV providers what I consider to be, in essence, protection money, he’s feeling free to criticize the deals. And he should, because the problem has nothing to do with Netflix using up a lot of ISP bandwidth. It’s the inherent conflict of interest that cable providers have by also being Internet service providers.

Cable TV companies collect the money for HBO subscriptions but they don’t collect the money for Netflix subscriptions. That’s what is driving them crazy. Their extremely profitable business model is falling apart and they’re desperate to force Internet video to be part of the old model. They want to sell the Netflix channel to their customers the same way they sell premium cable TV channels. Well, that just shouldn’t happen, because if the argument is that Netflix is using their bandwidth then they will have to charge every Internet service an additional fee for using the bandwidth, whether or not they compete with their cable TV business — bandwidth that their customers are already paying for.