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SportsAjax suspends CEO after two weeks of appointment over alleged insider trading


Ajax suspends CEO after two weeks of appointment over alleged insider trading

Ajax’s tumultuous season faced a new setback on Tuesday as their chief executive, Alex Kroes, was suspended by the club over suspected insider trading, just two weeks into his tenure.

Kroes has been immediately suspended, with Ajax indicating their intention to terminate his contract.

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The Dutch club made this decision after discovering that Kroes purchased more than 17,000 shares in Ajax a week before his appointment was officially announced on August 2, 2023. Following legal counsel, Ajax concluded that Kroes likely engaged in insider trading.

Kroes assumed the role of CEO on March 15, after being proposed for the position and chairman of the board in August 2023.

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His start at Ajax was delayed due to a one-year non-compete clause in his contract with AZ Alkmaar, where he served as the director of international football strategy. Kroes was selected to succeed Edwin van der Sar, who resigned as general director and CEO in May 2023.

“We are deeply dismayed that this has occurred at Ajax, as it is highly detrimental to the club and everyone who holds it dear to them,” Ajax chairman of the supervisory board Michael van Praag said in a statement. “Alex Kroes’ actions are not in line with what Ajax stands for. The timing of his share purchase indicates insider trading.

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“Such a violation of the law cannot be tolerated by a publicly listed company, especially when it involves the CEO. After careful consideration, the supervisory board has therefore concluded that Alex’s position as a director of Ajax is untenable. I want to emphasise that the technical policy will continue with the individuals in place and on the path Ajax was already on with Alex.”

In a statement published to LinkedIn, Kroes said he will refer this case to the Netherlands’ Authority for Financial Markets (AFM) to “arrive at an independent judgement.” Kroes said he bought shares on July 26, 2023, as a sign of faith in the project at Ajax and before he signed his contract to become their new CEO.

“I have been an Ajax player since I was nine,” Kroes said. “I have always been involved in the club, as a player and as a member. In my heart and later also through these shares. Shares that I bought out of involvement in the club. Out of confidence in the club. Not to make quick money, but as a positive signal to all stakeholders.

“I have always said in recent times that I want all the attention to be on Ajax, not on Alex. But my moral compass says that I cannot simply accept this decision of the Supervisory Board. I will now independently go to the AFM to present my matter in order to arrive at an independent judgment.

“All this causes unrest for Ajax and I sincerely regret that. Hopefully this period will be over soon. From today onwards, with a heavy heart, I will watch from a distance what is happening at Ajax. Ajax must become Ajax again.”

The Dutch giants, Ajax, have faced a challenging season marked by significant upheaval. Their performance dipped dramatically, leading them to occupy the bottom spot in the Eredivisie by late October 2023.

The season saw the swift departures of their sporting director, Sven Mislintat, and manager, Maurice Steijn, both appointed during the preseason.

Mislintat’s tenure lasted a mere 129 days before he was dismissed in September 2023 amidst investigations into a potential conflict of interest related to a transfer.

Steijn met a similar fate, being sacked in October during the club’s worst run of results in 54 years. Ajax then turned to John van ‘t Schip as interim manager.

However, they currently find themselves in fifth place in the Eredivisie, trailing by eight points for European qualification.

Their prospects for a Champions League spot appear distant, with a 21-point gap behind Feyenoord in second place and a 28-point deficit behind league leaders PSV.

When Kroes took the job, there was optimism his appointment would trigger the start of Ajax’s resurgence. “There are people who claim it will take four or five years for Ajax to become contenders for the title again,” Kroes said soon after taking the job. “My contract is for three years and I want Ajax to be a title contender in that time.”

However, Ajax finds itself in a position where a thorough reassessment of their strategies is imperative. For the time being, the board members will assume the tasks and obligations previously held by Kroes, with Van Praag acting as the designated representative.

The subsequent course of action involves the board convening an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Shareholders (EGM) to discuss the proposal for Kroes’ dismissal.

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