The man who led supermarket chain Jumbo for twenty years will definitely not return to the top of the company. Because of the investigation into possible money laundering, Frits van Eerd previously announced that he would temporarily step down. In the following months, the son of Jumbo founder Karel van Eerd has come to the decision that he no longer wants to be a top man in the future – regardless of the outcome of the criminal case.
The 55-year-old Van Eerd will be succeeded by Ton van Veen, who has already temporarily assumed the duties of CEO from his position on the Supervisory Board. That unusual role of ‘delegated supervisory director’ was converted into the formal position of general manager on Monday, Jumbo announced on Tuesday. Between 2004 and early 2022, Van Veen was also on the board of Jumbo, then as financial top man.
The appointment of Van Veen is not the only shift in the top of the company. Jumbo from Brabant, the largest supermarket chain in the country after Albert Heijn, also appointed a new chairman of the supervisory board. That position has been filled by Karel van Eerd in recent years, but has been vacant since the creator of the successful Jumbo formula died in mid-December at the age of 84.
Also read this profile about the new Jumbo CEO: If Ton van Veen doesn’t want it, the Van Eerd family won’t
In the search for a replacement, the family ended up with one of the children: Colette Cloosterman-Van Eerd, until last year on the board responsible for the development of the business formula. Cloosterman-Van Eerd is a shareholder of Jumbo together with Frits and younger sister Monique Groenenwoud-Van Eerd. Since the death of their father, they each own a third of the company.
Despite the changes in the top, Jumbo will continue with “the strategic course for the short and long term”, which the company formulated at the beginning of last year. The family is pleased that Van Veen wants to lead that process, said Cloosterman-van Eerd in a written explanation. “Ton offers Jumbo the continuity and stability it needs in these economically challenging times. He knows our family values like no other and understands how Jumbo was originally intended.”
Jumbo from Veghel was surprised in mid-September when the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) showed up unannounced at the door of the head office. That same morning, former CEO Van Eerd was arrested at his estate in Heeswijk-Dinther. This happened in a large-scale investigation into money laundering through sponsorship contracts in motor sports, real estate and car dealing and through ‘unexplained cash deposits’.
Justice immediately reported that Van Eerd is not the main suspect in the case. That is Theo E. from Gasteren in Drenthe, a former motocross racer and since then a car dealer and a good acquaintance of Frits van Eerd. Nevertheless, the Public Prosecution Service saw sufficient reason to detain the entrepreneur for questioning for five days. During raids at Van Eerd, twenty Rolexes and 450,000 euros in cash were seized, reported NRC earlier.
Although Jumbo and the family decided to wait in silence in the first days, it soon became clear that the criminal investigation would not be finished soon. According to experts, such an investigation sometimes takes more than a year. A week after his release, Van Eerd therefore concluded that the situation had become untenable. He stepped down “in the interest of Jumbo”, and to “fully concentrate on his personal situation”.
This was a radical change for the family business. Van Eerd has been emphatically involved in the explosive growth of Jumbo in recent decades. He worked with Van Veen on the acquisitions of, among others, Super de Boer (2009), C1000 (2012) and more recently HEMA (2020). As a result of these purchases, Jumbo grew from a regional family business into a dominant chain, with an annual turnover of 10.3 billion euros.
Shortly after Van Eerd’s temporary departure, Van Veen was brought forward as a provisional replacement. That construction could not last very long, Van Veen said earlier in conversation with NRC. “It does work in practice, this model. […] But it is not a model of years. So at some point you have to make a decision. And a lot also depends on the question: will Frits return or not?”
The temporary CEO did not want to anticipate that at the time. “We have agreed that we want to close the year first, in all respects. The books close, the accountant checks them. Hopefully at the end of February we can then say that 2022 is really ready and that we can look ahead. At that time, the shareholders and supervisory directors will start evaluating, and they will have to consider how those two positions will be filled definitively.”
Read also: How did Jumbo CEO Frits van Eerd end up in the world of shady car dealer Theo Eggens?
In making that decision, the Van Eerd family had to do without by far the most important piece of the puzzle. Nearly six months after the raids, little is still clear about the seriousness of the suspicions against the former Jumbo top executive. For now, those answers don’t seem to come either: The Telegraph previously reported that the hearing of the case will probably not take place until 2024. The money laundering investigation is rapidly becoming more complex now that connections with other criminal investigations are coming to light.
It is clear, however, that the investigation is limited to Van Eerd as a private person. Jumbo is not a suspect, the company has emphatically repeated in recent months. Nevertheless, it decided to tighten up internal “processes and procedures” in order to “prevent the risk of recurrence”, Van Veen said in an interview. NRC.
External investigation, by accounting firm KPMG, revealed various “vulnerabilities”. For example, in his position as general manager and shareholder, the former CEO had “a certain amount of room” to “decide on matters independently”. He could make decisions about “relatively small amounts” without a second person checking them.
“With today’s knowledge, we should have made that stricter earlier,” says Van Veen. Jumbo also announced that it would stop sponsoring motocross, one of the areas on which the money laundering investigation focuses.
A version of this article also appeared in the March 8, 2023 newspaper