Ajax pays penalty for Champions League defeat

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The Independent Online

Financial institutions are not known as the most loyal of supporters. And so it proved for AFC Ajax, whose shares were hit on Christmas Eve after it emerged that Citigroup had sold its 7.4% stake in the Dutch soccer club.

The world's largest financial services company and the club's second-biggest shareholder dumped its stake just two days after Ajax had been eliminated from Europe's most lucrative club tournament, the UEFA Champions League.

The New York-based bank sold its shareholding, worth about $8.5m, on 11 December, according to filings with the Dutch financial services regulator which were disclosed on Christmas Eve. The holding was in the name of Salomon Brothers, the bank which Citigroup took over in 1998.

Ajax's 1-2 loss to Belgium's Club Brugge not only eliminated it from the Champions League, but also knocked it out of the UEFA Cup, which is open to those clubs finishing third in their first phase Champions League groups. Ajax finished fourth out of four in its group.

However, Ajax is on top of the Dutch domestic league.

AFC Ajax is the only publicly traded Dutch soccer team, having floated in 1998. The company sold around 30 per cent, leaving the AFC Ajax Association with the remainder and control of the team.