General Manager Cheri Nolan and staff were going to be replaced by a management firm, but were then retained and apologies were issued. The turmoil, which included a police detail and changing locks on the property, stems from a fight for control of Demoulas Super Markets, which owns the club.
The family feud continuing to engulf Demoulas Super Markets, Inc. (DSM), a $4.6 billion, Tewksbury, Mass.-based company that is ranked by Forbes as the 127th largest private company in the U.S., spilled over to cause temporary management turmoil at Indian Ridge Country Club (IRCC) in Andover, Mass., which the company owns, in the last days of June.
Two police officers were sent to the club on the morning of June 26 and a locksmith arrived to change locks, all as part of orders from the corporate office of Market Basket supermarkets, DSM’s primary retail brand, to effect a change of management, reported the Eagle Tribune of North Andover, Mass. The change was seen as part of an effort to clean house, the Eagle Tribune reported, of any supporters of Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired earlier in the week as CEO of DSM. Two other top executives were also fired, and seven other executives and senior officers then resigned.
“Arthur T.” ’s cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, was named to replace him, as the latest development in a family power struggle that has gone on for years, according to reports.
Caught in the middle was Indian Ridge CC’s General Manager, Cheri Nolan, who has managed the club since 2000. Because she was perceived as loyal to “Arthur T.,” the Eagle Tribune reported, the new Board decided that Nolan and her staff should be replaced by Newton, Mass.-based Sterling Golf Management.
Two police officers were sent to the property on June 26, the Eagle Tribune reported. Charles Heseltine, Andover’s Police Commander, told the Eagle Tribune that Market Basket’s corporate office had called the night before to hire the officers for a detail “to keep the peace at Indian Ridge.” Heseltine said he was not briefed on what the officers were to expect there.
“Their job was to keep the peace. There were no problems at all,” he told the Eagle Tribune.
Nolan told the Eagle Tribune that Gerard Levins, a DSM Board member who is loyal to Arthur S. Demoulas, arrived that morning at about 8 a.m. with Sterling Golf Management President Kevin Osgood and a real estate attorney, and she was told that Sterling was taking over and she was to leave.
“Mr. Levins told me, ‘Mr. Osgood is here to replace you and you’re out,’” Nolan said.
Osgood and Levins did not respond to requests for comment, the Eagle Tribune reported.
When interviewed by the Eagle Tribune at about 12:30 pm, Nolan explained what was going on by saying, “We’re very loyal to ‘Arthur T.’ That’s what it is. They [the new DSM management] are very vindictive.”
Interviews were then cut short, the Eagle Tribune reported, when managers at the club said locksmiths had arrived to change the locks at the property. Elizabeth St. Hilaire, Assistant Office Manager, said at that time she did not know whether she would have a job at the end of the day, the Eagle Tribune reported. “I feel as if we’re going to be locked out today,” she said.
But then DSM’s new co-CEOs, Felicia Thornton and James Gooch, who had been appointed by the Board after Arthur T. Demoulas’ firing on Monday, arrived at Indian Ridge at about 1 p.m. and met with Nolan for a short time, the Eagle Tribune reported. Afterward, they shook hands outside the clubhouse, and Nolan went back inside as Thornton and Gooch left.
Both executives referred questions to Nolan the next day, the Eagle Tribune reported. And the DSM Board of Directors released a statement through a spokeswoman on the afternoon of June 27 which said that Thornton and Gooch had called off the management change, and apologized to Nolan and her staff.
“The Board was executing on a plan to transition the management of the IRCC that was established prior to the election of Felicia and Jim as co-CEOs,” according to the statement. “They were not part of this plan and intervened and reinstated Cheri Nolan and her team. The board apologizes to Cheri Nolan and all associates. Future real estate, business and operational matters will be handled by Felicia and Jim.”
Arthur T. Demoulas could not be reached for any comment on the situation, the Eagle Tribune reported.
Several golf club members said their reaction to seeing police at the club ranged from comical to disgust, the Eagle Tribune reported. “It’s disgusting,” said Barry Connors, a 13-year member of the club. “It shows a total lack of class.”
He added, “I used to be a loyal customer of Demoulas. Used to be. Now I’m going to find somewhere else.”
The club was hosting dozens of members and their guests at the time, Nolan said. “It’s embarrassing for our members,” Stephanie Bard, the grill room manager, told the Eagle Tribune.
The situation at IRCC touched off a flurry of additional coverage by other media outlets in the region. The Boston Globe’s follow-up coverage described how “a serene setting of tree-lined fairways of deep green suddenly was host to a five-hour standoff, as the two sides exchanged angry words while waiting for a locksmith to show up to change the locks. Teary-eyed country club workers quickly packed their belongings, expecting to be tossed off the property. And the golfers themselves said they were saddened to see the bitter dispute between the cousins—until now fought in board rooms and courtrooms—invade their peaceful redoubt.”
IRCC has about 150 employees, the Globe reported, and Arthur T., who is not a golfer, had run the club for years through a separate management company whose contract ended in March. He then made the Indian Ridge workers DSM Supermarkets employees. But some DSM Supermarkets directors objected to that, which led to the Board putting into motion a plan to replace the golf course Tmanagers, too, after Arthur T. was fired.
The Globe described Nolan as “perhaps [the most] loyal” to Arthur T. Demoulas, noting that she has been an employee of the club since 1972, and that her computer screen is a background image of her at a rally of Market Basket employees that was held last year in his support. Nolan also has two red bumper stickers on her white Chevy sedan that tout Arthur T. as a “man of integrity” who will save Market Basket, the Globe reported.
On Friday, the Globe reported, the walls of Nolan’s office had been stripped bare of family photos and other mementos of events held at the club over the years. “It’s a big win for them to get rid of me,” said Nolan, who, despite assurances from the company’s new chief executives, said she still believes her job is in jeopardy. “I have no trust with them.”