ALICANTE, ESP – Simeon Tienpont (NED), the defrocked CEO/skipper of the AkzoNobel team for the Volvo Ocean Race, has, no surprise, lawyered up. Today his "advokaat" (Dutch for advocate/lawyer) issued an ultimatum to Akzo/Nobel, the sponsor of the team which hired Tienpont's management company, STEAM Ocean Racing BV, to manage their entry for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. The first race was last Saturday's Alicante In-Port race. Akzo was skippered by another member of the crew, Jules Salter (GBR), and finished 6th in the seven-boat fleet. Tienpont had been fired on the eve of that first race for breach of contract, or so alleged AkzoNobel in a brief statement issued Friday.
According to the authoritative Dutch TV website, Watersport-TV.nl, AkzoNobel has received a letter from Simeon Tienpont's counselor with an ultimatum to reinstate Tienpont and his management company, or the parties will see each other in court on Thursday.
Watersport-TV's article today said they had not seen the ultimatum letter but understood that it calls for a return of Tienpont as skipper. Yesterday, AkzoNobel announced that another crew member, Brad Jackson (NZL), had been appointed skipper replacing Tienpont.
AkzoNobel's spokesman, Peter van Boesschoten, confirmed that there is an ultimatum letter but there is no court summons yet.
According to AkzoNobel, the entire crew has expressed its intention to continue with the team under the chemical company's sponsorship. Sailing Illustrated has learned that on Monday all the remaining crew signed new employment contracts with AkzoNobel, negating their former contracts with STEAM Ocean Racing BV.
The question remains: What was the nature of the alleged (by AkzoNobel) breach of contract by STEAM? Akzo so far has declined to give details. Our sources suggest that the alleged breach is that STEAM's leadership has been guilty of financial mismanagement, and that the issue has been ongoing since at least December. We note that AkzoNobel has recently changed CEOs, who may have insisted that Akzo take the reins themselves by breaking the contract with Tienpont and his management company.
Tienpont has so far declined to respond to our questions (and our invitation to appear on today's Tuesday with TFE Facebook Live netcast) on the advice of his lawyer with the matter potentially heading to court later this week.