Ajax suspend club CEO Alex Kroes for ‘likely insider trading’


Ajax have suspended club CEO Alex Kroes after he “likely engaged in insider trading” prior to his appointment in August 2023.

The Dutch club released a statement on Tuesday to state that Kroes has been suspended from his role “with immediate effect and (the club) intends to terminate the collaboration permanently”.

Ajax said the decision followed external legal advice after learning that the 49-year-old had purchased over 17,000 shares in the club prior to his appointment on August 2, 2023.

Insider trading — the buying or selling of stocks based on privileged information — is a criminal offence.

Kroes only began his work as the club’s CEO on March 15 following his appointment last summer.

“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,” said Michael van Praag, chairman of the club’s supervisory board, who dealt with the case.

“Alex Kroes’s actions are not in line with what Ajax stands for. The timing of his share purchase indicates insider trading. 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.”

Kroes said in a statement on Tuesday that “I bought every Ajax share myself” and added that Ajax’s supervisory board were “already aware” of his share package in the club and that he provided “full disclosure” about all relevant assets, including his 42,500 shares in the club.

“In the period from April 6, 2022 to July 26, 2023, I purchased Ajax shares in bits and pieces, increasing to 42,500 shares (of the total of 18.33million existing Ajax shares),” Kroes said.

“On December 31, 2022 I already had 20,000 pieces. I purchased another part in the months of April, May and June 2023. I purchased the last part (approximately 17,500 pieces) on July 26, 2023, shortly before my appointment on August 2, 2023.”

Kroes insists he had “not yet agreed” his move to Ajax at that time, but admitted to having a “good feeling” about his appointment. He said: “I thought it was a positive signal to radiate confidence in the club and to shareholders.”

Kroes added that to “radiate confidence” to his fellow shareholders and stakeholders, he bought shares to “run financial risks” himself, which he described as showing to have “skin in the game”.

“After July 26, 2023 and, to avoid any misunderstandings, since I have access to any confidential information, I have not bought or sold any Ajax shares,” Kroes added.

“While it’s not impossible that I could make money with these stocks in the longer term, that certainly hasn’t been the case to date. There is certainly no ‘quick win’ idea behind it, I first wanted to ensure that things would go very well for Ajax in all kinds of areas.”

Kroes added that Ajax’s supervisory board advised him on March 29 that they no longer had confidence in him and believed he had “malicious intent” in mind with his purchase of shares on July 26, 2023.

“I now understand, after consultation with my lawyer, that I did not make the wisest decision on July 26, 2023 due to the appearance of the situation,” Kroes said.

“This does not alter the fact that a number of questions can still be asked about the qualification as ‘inside information’ and therefore certainly the severity of the decision of summary dismissal by the Supervisory Board.”

He added: “The Ajax supervisory board has already ruled that I apparently do not have the ‘correct moral compass’. A compass that, conversely, I would have liked to see the supervisory board use in recent months. The supervisory board earlier this week labeled the purchase of the last portion of shares as nothing more than ‘unfortunate’.”

A former Ajax youth player, Kroes was a co-founder of the Sports Entertainment Group (SEG) player agency, in 2000. He sold SEG — now the largest football agency in the Netherlands — in 2018.

Kroes subsequently became majority shareholder and director of Dutch club Go Ahead Eagles, before in December 2022 becoming the director of international football strategy at Eredivisie club AZ Alkmaar.

He was appointed as Ajax CEO in the summer of 2023 to replace Edwin van der Sar, but due to a competition clause in his contract with AZ, an agreement had to be reached between the parties to allow him to commence work at the Amsterdam club.

That work began on March 15, just 18 days prior to his suspension.

(NESimages/Geert van Erven/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

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