Ajax suspend CEO Alex Kroes two weeks after appointment on suspicion of ‘insider trading’

Alex Kroes general manager AFC Ajax looks on during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Sparta Rotterdam and AFC Ajax at Sparta Stadion Het Kasteel on March 17, 2024 in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Ajax have made it clear they intend to terminate their relaitonship with Alex Kroes - Geert van Erven/Getty Images

Ajax’s disastrous season took another turn for the worse on Tuesday as their chief executive was suspended for suspected insider trading – just two weeks after starting the job.

Ajax have announced that Alex Kroes, the club’s CEO and chairman of the board, has been suspended with immediate effect and that they “intend to terminate the collaboration permanently”.

It comes after the club learned that Kroes had purchased more than 17,000 shares in Ajax just a week before his intended appointment was announced in August last year.

In a club statement, Ajax said: “The Supervisory Board sought external legal advice, which indicates that he likely engaged in insider trading. Insider trading is a criminal offence.”

Kroes, a former youth player at the club who went on to forge a successful business career, only started work at Ajax on March 15th. He previously worked as the director of international football strategy for AZ Alkmaar.

Matt Parish CEO of Liverpool Foundation and Alex Kroes CEO of Ajax Foundation before the LFC Foundation charity match between Liverpool FC Legends and AFC Ajax Legends at Anfield on March 23, 2024 in Liverpool, England

Michael van Praag, chairman of Ajax’s supervisory board, said: “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. 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.”

In a lengthy statement posted on LinkedIn, Kroes said Ajax was aware of his share package at the time of his appointment last year. He added that he had provided “full disclosure” to the supervisory board about all “relevant assets”.

“I have never made a secret of the fact that I have this share package,” he said. “In fact, I pointed out to Ajax in August last year that I had this package and that I would like to hear how to deal with it because I had not yet mastered the specific rules. That question has not been answered to date.”

He added: “I have been an Ajax player since I was nine. 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.”

Kroes will present his case to the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, saying: “My moral compass says that I cannot simply accept this decision of the Supervisory Board.”

This episode with Kroes is just the latest difficult moment for a club that finds itself in fifth in the Eredivisie after a chaotic season. It also comes after Sven Mislintat, their former sporting director, was dismissed in September amid an investigation into a potential conflict of interest over a summer transfer.