Ajax is a football club, not a business
"Take Ajax off the stock market." That's one of the recommendations of a commission that has been investigating the performance of the famous Amsterdam football club. By Arwen van Grafhorst
Things haven't been going well at Ajax for some years. Trainer after trainer has been sacked, expensive players have been purchased from abroad, but on the field success has been lacking. Three seasons ago, Ajax won the championship, but there hasn't been any sustained success for more than a decade.
Ajax must become a proper football club again, says the Coronel Commission that has analysed the technical and general policies of the Amsterdam club over the past ten years. And than means withdrawing from the stock market.
Honorary member Uri Coronel, chairman of the investigating commission, has no doubts that the entry of Ajax to the stock market in 1998 has produced very little benefit:
"We have a lot of problems because we don't have complete freedom to do business. In everything we do, we have to think: how does that fit in with the rules of the stock exchange?"
Conclusions and Recommendations of the Coronel Commission
• The General Manager must have more experience of the football world (the current General Manager, Maarten Fontein, comes from the business world, and previously worked for Unilever).
• The Technical Director (Martin van Geel) has signed too many average players.
• Ajax must appoint a strong trainer with management skills.
• The link with supporters must be strengthened, and Ajax must do more to show that it is a club rather than a business.
Buying back the shares
If Ajax chooses to give up its place on the stock market, one way to do it would involve the club buying back all the shares. Based on the current share price, that means 37.5 million euro. However, Cornel has already hinted that the club doesn't have enough money.
But Ajax can also end its listing on the stock market without selling the shares, says Corné van Zeijl, an investment advisor with SNS Asset Management.
"The major shareholders, who have 73 percent of the shares in their hands, can push such a decision through."
The small shareholders - often the supporters who buy a few shares for the love of their club - would then become the victims. Their shares would then have only a symbolic value, says Van Zeijl:
"The stock market is in fact nothing than a giant regulated marketplace, and that will probably soon be the only place where they can get rid of their shares."
The small shareholders have, in any cased, hardly profited from their Ajax shares.
Their value has fallen by a third in the past ten years. Van Zeijl:
"If you don't succeed on the field, then you also don't succeed financially."
If Ajax had delivered titles more frequently, the club could have earned a lot, also from merchandising such as the sale of t-shirts and mugs. Success on the stock market is certainly possible, says Van Zeijl. Manchester United, for example, has made a lot of profit there.
Share price increase
For the time being, it doesn't look as if people are taking too much notice of the stock market analysts. On the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the Ajax share price rose on Monday morning by 10 percent!
18 February 2008
By Arwen van Grafhorst
- RNW translation (as)
[Copyright Radio Netherlands]