In the search for a temporary successor for CEO Frits van Eerd, supermarket chain Jumbo has come up with the most likely candidate. Former financial chief Ton van Veen will lead the board for the time being, Jumbo announced on Tuesday afternoon. This spring, Van Veen took another step back, from the executive board to the supervisory board. 52-year-old Van Veen will manage the company through a temporary structure: as ‘delegated supervisory director’. This means that he will remain as a member of the Supervisory Board, but will be given a special task at the request of the other members of the Supervisory Board. It is a role that occasionally occurs at companies, when the CEO suddenly disappears for whatever reason. Also read our previous profile of the temporary successor of Frits van Eerd: If Ton van Veen doesn’t want it, the Van Eerd family won’t The change is necessary now that it is uncertain how long CEO Frits van Eerd will be absent from Jumbo. The 55-year-old driver, third generation in the family business, was arrested three weeks ago as part of an investigation into large-scale money laundering. That would have happened through questionable cash deposits, real estate transactions, car trading and “sponsor contracts in the motocross sport”, according to the OM. No prime suspect Van Eerd is not a prime suspect in the case. That is 58-year-old Theo E. from Gasteren in Drenthe, a former motocross racer and car dealer, who was previously convicted of money laundering. Yet the suspicions against Van Eerd were also serious enough for the public prosecutor to detain the CEO for five days last month. During that period he was not allowed to have any contact with the outside world, only with his lawyer. Also read this profile: Frits van Eerd: unconventional Jumbo CEO with a (too?) great love for cars Less than a week after his release, Van Eerd announced that he would temporarily resign from his position – “after careful consultation with his family and the supervisory board”. That was in the “interest of Jumbo”, but also gave him the opportunity to “concentrate fully” on the criminal investigation. According to experts, such a process can sometimes take up to a year. Jumbo (9.9 billion euros turnover, 100,000 employees) announced at the time that it was still considering a solution for the management vacuum. In the first week and a half, the tasks of the CEO were taken care of by operational director Cees van Vliet and financial director Peter van Erp. It was unclear at the time whether Jumbo was looking for a temporary successor. ‘Connecting role’ With Van Veen, the family opts for experience. The Zuid-Hollander was financial chief of Jumbo for eighteen years and therefore knows the supermarket chain through and through. When he started, in 2004, Jumbo was still a modest player, led by Karel van Eerd. Jumbo is now the largest supermarket chain in the country after Albert Heijn. During that period, Van Veen played a prominent role in the major acquisitions made by the family, of Super de Boer (2009) and C1000 (2012) and later HEMA (2020). But his role was broader than that: Van Veen was not just about the numbers on the board, but also about sponsorship, the relationship with franchisers, technology, human resources and legal matters. It gave him a place that family businesses sometimes lack: that of confidant, on which the family dares to navigate in difficult situations. “Ton really knows everything about us,” said Frits van Eerd in a profile that NRC made about Van Veen at the end of 2020. “How we are doing, what the property is, what the plans are, what the tactics are.” In addition to Van Veen’s new role, Jumbo announced another personnel change on Tuesday. Because there has been no family member on the board since the CEO’s departure, Colette Cloosterman-Van Eerd also returns. She was active on the board as formula director for many years, but this spring, like Van Veen, she made the transition to the supervisory board. Frits van Eerd’s older sister is also a delegated supervisory director. In the near future, she will have to fulfill “the connecting role” between the company, supervisory directors and the family, Jumbo reports. Cloosterman-Van Eerd will also temporarily take over the role that Van Veen had on the supervisory board, as vice-chairman. In Tuesday’s statement, it is also the first time that anyone in or around the family has spoken publicly about the situation. “The recent developments surrounding Frits do not leave us untouched,” says chairman of the supervisory board and paterfamilias Karel van Eerd. He expresses confidence in Van Veen and states that within the organization there is “all support and respect” for his son’s decision to temporarily step down. Not usual The solution Jumbo is now opting for is not a usual one. At large Dutch companies, it has happened several times in recent years that someone from the supervisory body was also given administrative tasks. One of the best-known examples of a supervisory director who started to assist the board now happens to be at Jumbo. When Ton Büchner temporarily stepped aside from paint concern AkzoNobel in 2012, due to a burnout, it was the chairman of the supervisory board Antony Burgmans who jumped in. He assisted financial director Keith Nichols, who then took over Büchner’s duties. Burgmans is now one of the supervisory directors who have put forward Van Veen as a temporary replacement for Frits van Eerd. A delegated supervisory director has a special position between the management board and the supervisory board. He or she may temporarily fill the gap that has arisen after a director has been inactive for some time, or until a permanent successor has been found. According to the ‘corporate governance code’ for Dutch companies, a kind of code of conduct for directors of large companies in the Netherlands, such a temporary successor may not perform any tasks other than the ‘special task’ assigned by the other supervisory directors. The transfer of Ton van Veen is ‘logical’, says Leen Paape, professor of corporate governance at Nyenrode University. “A crisis has to be solved and he knows the company well. In this way you buy time to possibly find a permanent replacement for Frits van Eerd.” There is no legal maximum term for such a delegated supervisory director “but such a temporary appointment is a matter of months rather than years,” says Paape.
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