Shock resignation of Dreamworld boss
DREAMWORLD'S parent company Ardent has lost its second CEO in six months, with Simon Kelly resigning suddenly just days after the first anniversary of the tragedy on the Thunder River Rapids.
Mr Kelly, who was also the group's managing director, announced his resignation in a statement to the ASX this morning.
"It has been a pleasure to lead the Group and I am pleased that we have made real progress on our strategic and operational priorities," he said.
"I remain very positive about the potential of the Group's businesses."
Chairman Gary Weiss, the third chairman in a year, said the board was sorry to see Mr Kelly go.
"The Board of Directors is disappointed with Simon's resignation and would like to thank him for his contribution to the group and wish him well in the future," he said.
Mr Kelly, the former Nine Entertainment finance boss, replaced Deborah Thomas as CEO after she resigned in April.
Geoff Richardson, the group's chief financial officer, will assume the role of interim CEO.
Dreamworld had 1.66 million visitors last financial year, compared to 2.4 million from 2015-16.
The theme park reported visitation slumps of 51.3 per cent for December 2016, 39.6 per cent for January 2017 and 29 per cent for February 2017.
The statement said the board would promptly commence the search for a new CEO. It also gave an update of how the business was tracking ahead of its annual general meeting later this month.
"Dreamworld trading remains challenged, albeit within expectations, with the business trading above break-even ahead of the peak trading season over the summer months," the statement said.
Following Mr Kelly's resignation, non-executive director Brad Richmond will assume responsibility for overseeing Main Event until the previously announced search for a US-based CEO for this business is complete.
"Mr Richmond has extensive operational experience in the leisure and entertainment sectors in the United States, and will work actively with the existing management team to drive the Main Event business and implement the strategy that has been agreed with the Board," Ardent's statement said.
"Ardent is trading broadly in line with expectations for FY18 Core EBITDA.
"The Group notes that depreciation charges for FY18 are expected to be approximately A$10 million higher than the prior corresponding period, reflecting new Main Event, Kingpin and Playtime centre openings.
"At Main Event, while revenues at a number of the centres opened in FY17 and the acquired Latitude centres continue to be challenged, in the 18 weeks to 31 October 2017 constant centre revenues are up 0.3 per cent (1.1 per cent adjusted for hurricane effects) on the prior corresponding period.
"The Bowling and Entertainment business is delivering solid growth, with EBITDA tracking up circa 20 per cent on the prior corresponding period. At a corporate level, good progress has been made in driving the cost base down, the full impact of which will flow through in the next financial year.
"The Board continues to work collaboratively and remains unanimously committed to the previously announced strategic initiatives."
The new-look board has outlined a detailed plan to access a $300 million "potential opportunity" in theme parks to invest in the parks and boost attendance.
Funds needed to boost the park would come from the mooted $25 million sale of 25ha of the park's 60ha site at Coomera.