Van der Hoeven Steps Down, Ahold Stock Tumbles

AMSTERDAM -- Longtime Royal Ahold chief executive officer Cees van der Hoeven resigned today as the Dutch retail giant revealed it overstated earnings by more than $500 million over the past two years.

Reports from various news services had chief financial officer Michael Meurs stepping down as well. Day-to-day operations at the company are being run by Henny de Ruiter, chairman of the supervisory board.

Shares of Ahold sank to $3.82 in Instinet trade, down from their closing price of $10.69 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. It was the most actively traded stock before the bell, an Instinet broker told Reuters.

The world's third-largest retailer said it is investigating bookkeeping at several units, including U.S. Foodservice and Argentine-based retailer Disco. Supermarket chains run by Ahold in the U.S. include Stop & Shop, Giant, and Bi-Lo.

Ahold bought U.S. Foodservice in 2000 in an initial foray into the corporate catering industry. The company said it is now investigating problematic commercial relationships between the unit and its suppliers.
Newswire reports say the company believes the overstatement may exceed $500 million, with the majority of such amount occurring in the expected operating earnings for fiscal year 2002. This will require the restatement of Ahold
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