More turmoil at Ajax as new CEO suspended on suspicion of insider trading

AMSTERDAM, Apr 2: Ajax’s calamitous season worsened when the Amsterdam club suspended new CEO Alex Kroes on Tuesday and said it intends to fire him on suspicion of insider trading in the club’s shares.

Kroes, who started at Ajax only last month as a permanent replacement for Edwin van der Sar, could not immediately be reached for comment. He posted a statement on LinkedIn saying he “cannot simply accept this decision of the Supervisory Board.”

A successful sports administrator, Kroes was seen as a key to bringing the struggling four-time European champion back to the top of Dutch and European soccer after a dismal start to the season when Ajax fell into the Eredivisie relegation zone and fired coach Maurice Steijn.

The club has risen to fifth in the Eredivisie but 28 points behind runaway leader PSV Eindhoven, and is looking to hire a new coach for next season.

“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,” Michael van Praag, chairman of the supervisory board, said in a statement.

Ajax said it suspended Kroes after discovering he bought more than 17,000 Ajax shares a week before his intended appointment was announced last August.

“The supervisory board sought external legal advice, which indicates that he likely engaged in insider trading. Insider trading is a criminal offense,” the club said.

Kroes confirmed in his statement that he bought about 17,500 Ajax shares shortly before his appointment in addition to more shares he already held in the club.

“I thought it would be a positive sign to express confidence in the club and to shareholders,” he said.

“I believe that you express confidence to your fellow shareholders and stakeholders when you buy shares yourself and therefore also run financial risks yourself. Skin in the game,’ as it’s called.”

Van der Sar stepped down last May after the team finished third in the Dutch league, missing out on a Champions League berth.

Van der Sar formed a strong and successful partnership in the Ajax boardroom with former teammate Marc Overmars, until Overmars abruptly quit as the director of football more than two years ago after apologizing for sending inappropriate messages to female colleagues. (AP)