ALICANTE, ESP – Friday afternoon after your Ed. broke the news on Sailing Illustrated in a world exclusive that Skipper/CEO Simeon Tienpont had been fired by AkzoNobel, sponsor of the Volvo Ocean Racing team of the same name, Akzo issued this terse statement:
Following a breach of contract Simeon Tienpont left his role as skipper of team AkzoNobel in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race on Friday, October 13, 2017. AkzoNobel, the owner and title partner of team AkzoNobel, has confirmed it’s fully committed to the team competing in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. An announcement confirming who will take over the skipper role will be made shortly.
Late last evening (Saturday) Simeon Tienpont's wife, Elisa, sent your Ed. this statement via Facebook messenger, which we reprint here verbatim as she requested:
Simeon Tienpont - Press Release Saturday October 14th
The meeting with skipper of team AkzoNobel Simeon Tienpont and Communications, Public Affairs & Legal Affairs of AkzoNobel, which was cancelled by AkzoNobel a few times and was late, did not contribute to any solution. The deadlock Tienpont was forced in yesterday following AkzoNobel's one-sided termination of the contract was not resolved; the meeting did not contribute to any solution, so there was no other choice than to go public after AkzoNobel's suggestive statement about our skipper Simeon Tienpont. During the prologue leg of the Volvo Ocean Race (which left Lisbon on October 8th), so at a time AkzoNobel knew that Tienpont as a skipper was unreachable, AkzoNobel terminated their contract with Simeon Tienpont and his entire team. The team finished third in the prologue.
FIRST ENTRY AkzoNobel announced their sponsorship in the 2017-18 race on July 5th, 2016 in Scheveningen, the Netherlands, and were the first team to enter the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race. The Volvo Ocean Race is the longest and toughest sailing race in the world. Tienpont has participated twice in the race (2005-06 and 2016) and is a two time America’s Cup winner.
DISAPPOINTED AkzoNobel has refused to reverse its decision and it looks they are unwilling to continue the Volvo Ocean Race campaign with Tienpont as their skipper. Tienpont: “Disappointing, especially because me and my team were successfully racing the prologue from Lisbon to Alicante”. Also, only a few weeks ago, on September 25th, 2017 the new CEO of AkzoNobel confirmed Tienpont his personal and AkzoNobel’s support for the campaign. The CEO urged Simeon to contact him personally if any problem should arise. Sadly up to time, AkzoNobel’s CEO has not been available for Tienpont upon the termination. No explanation has been givens as to why AkzoNobel acted in this manner. Tienpont: "They talk about a contract break, which is absolutely unfounded and is very damaging to my reputation, especially in view of the timing, just before the start of the race. I can only guess that it is about a small budget overrun on a safety issue, but we have always been 100% transparent to AkzoNobel about our financial affairs and all our expenses have been made with their approval. It is them, not me, who is in clear breach of the contract.".
WINNING APPROACH Tienpont: “It has always been my aim to run a safe, sustainable and winning campaign for AkzoNobel and I still want to do so. My other sponsors and partners supporting the team, my sailing and shore crew employed, where very confident in our approach to represent AkzoNobel in the very best way possible. It came as a huge and unpleasant surprise when AkzoNobel terminated the contract during the prologue at the time the team was at sea. Tienpont and his team will now regroup and try to develop options to continue with this winning campaign”.
Today comes yet another statement, this one from AkzoNobel as published on their team website:
A message from our sailing and shore teams
Sunday, October 15, 2017
First of all, we want to thank everyone for the many messages and comments the team has received over what has been a difficult few days for us. We appreciate every single one of them – the positive and the negative ones – and we very much value everyone’s passion for the campaign.
Right now team AkzoNobel is dealing with a challenge none of us ever expected to face. It has been tough, but the sailors and the shoreside support staff have every intention to be on the start line next Sunday for the start of Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The complex nature of the events that have unfolded over the last week have meant we have been unable to communicate with our supporters as openly as we would normally do so, and for that we are sorry.
The title partner and owner of the team has said:
– Simeon Tienpont’s management company STEAM breached its contract to manage the team AkzoNobel entry in the Volvo Ocean race 2017-18
– The breach was serious enough for AkzoNobel to terminate the contract with immediate effect and AkzoNobel then took over the full management of the team
– Simeon was offered the option to continue as skipper but opted not to continue and has left the team
AkzoNobel has restated to us its unwavering commitment to our entry in the Volvo Ocean Race.
The sailing team and management are working together to move forward and find the best solution for the race which starts in seven days time.
As soon as the new skipper is confirmed we will make sure our sailing fans are the first to know about it.
In the world of professional sport and particularly in major global sporting competitions like the Volvo Ocean Race, teams have to be able to deal with whatever adversities come their way.
We are all working in the best interest for the team and the Volvo Ocean Race. Thanks once again for your support which we value even more than ever at this time.
Undoubtedly this is a messy legal situation as we understand that AkzoNobel contracted with Simeon to manage the team, and Simeon's management company in turn contracted the sailors and shore team. We hear from several of our normally reliable sources, who are in a position to know but not authorized to speak with the media, that AkzoNobel paid Mr Tienpont's management company €15 million, reportedly rather more than other team budgets, and that there has been an ongoing dispute between AkzoNobel and Simeon over budget and spending that came to a head last December when the Akzo tried to force Simeon out as team manager.
Yesterday, Tienpont's profile was removed from the AkzoNobel crew webpage, and at least three names are rumored to be possible replacements: Navigator Jules Salter (GBR) who skippered the yacht in Saturday's Alicante In-Port race, Brad Jackson (NZL) who is currently listed as watch captain, helmsman and head of boat performance, and former VOR skipper Chris Nicholson (AUS).
Indeed, as we post this on Sunday morning, your Ed. is hearing that Mr Nicholson is likely to get the nod, pending contractual and VOR-certification paperwork. Nicholson had previously been hired by Tienpont as a team coach, and at some point in the past year we understand that Simeon offered Chris a position racing on AkzoNobel but that he declined. But with Simeon now out of the picture, we are told by a source close to the team "it would be a very natural evolution and now Chris will most likely accept."
Chris Nicholson (AUS), who skippered Team Vestas Wind in the last VOR, and has raced in a total of five Volvos.
The beleaguered AkzoNobel finished 6th (out of seven) in Saturday's first official, points-counting race, the Alicante In-Port. Mapfre won, and given her strong performance in the preliminary racing looks to be the early favorite.