Case Study

Ahold: A royal Dutch disaster

17 pages
August 2006
Reference: IMD-1-0217

The case traces the history of Ahold, the world’s third largest food retailer, describing in detail the events in the 10 years leading up to its collapse. After the new CEO, Cees van der Hoeven, took over in 1993, Ahold embarked on a programme of rapid expansion with a target of 15 per cent growth in earnings per share per year. The strategy took the form of penetrating new geographic markets and diversification into related industries. While van der Hoeven appeared to be achieving his targets, in reality, he was sowing the seeds of his own destruction. While the apparent reason for Ahold’s downfall was the discovery of fraud at one of its US subsidiaries, the actual causes were much more complex. The company itself survived, thanks in part to the existence of a “poison pill”, but was radically restructured over the next two years with many of van der Hoeven’s ventures being dismantled. The case offers the opportunity to discuss many of the common causes of company failure: 1) poor strategic decisions, 2) over-expansion, especially through ill-judged acquisitions, 3) a dominant CEO driven by greed and hubris, 4) weak internal controls, particularly in regard to remote operations, 5) ineffective boards. The case can also be used to comment on the existence and effect of “poison pills” and other restrictions on ordinary shareholder power; corporate governance and the many reforms now in place or being proposed; and how distant operations can be effectively controlled.

Corporate Collapse, Accounting Fraud, Expansion, Diversification, Restructuring, Recovery, Remote Operation, Food, Retail
Published Sources
© 2006
Available Languages
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Teaching note
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