Geelong was under enormous pressure financially at the time, Ayres told AAP.
``It was not an environment conducive to getting the best out of everyone.''
Ayres, who is in the final year of a three-year contract with the Adelaide Crows, was comfortable his position there would not be reviewed until after the season.
``The circumstances of what happened before (at Geelong) compared to now are vastly different,'' Ayres said.
But Cats president Frank Costa last night was disappointed with Ayres' comments.
``It's the first I've heard that he left because he was frightened of debt,'' Costa said.
``He didn't say that to us at the time. He said he was going because he wanted security of a longer tenure in a senior coaching position and Adelaide offered him that.''
Geelong finished 11th on the ladder in 1999, after having won the first five games and then losing nine in a row.
Costa said Ayres was told the new administration under Brian Cook was working in the right direction.
``But we weren't prepared to give Gary what he wanted - a two-year extension on his contract - early in the season,'' Costa said.
``We told him we wanted to wait until later in the season to see how we were going and then consider it.
``He had 12 months to run after that year with the Cats. He managed to get a three-year contract with the Crows that gave him longer security.''
Costa said the club had been proven correct in predicting debt would be reduced.
``It has come down from somewhere between $7 and $8 million early in Gary's last year at Geelong to $1.9 million today, and heading south at the expected rate,'' he said. ``At that time we were working on a lot of changes to get economies of scale working within the club, such as bringing the social club under the one management control of the football club, which minimised or actually eliminated a lot of overheads.
``And we were working on an arrangement between banks which was going to lower our debt, which worked out well,'' Costa said.