The outgoing chair of the board of Ardent Leisure – the company that owns Dreamworld theme park – has rejected shareholder requests that he extend his chairmanship to help it through the difficult times it faces following four tragic deaths.
This means the incoming chair, former insurance executive George Venardos, is stepping in at a ‘difficult time’, according to business commentators.
CFO Venardos has been a director of Ardent since 2009, and has been chair of the company’s risk and audit committee and a member of its safety committee.
Venardos was also a member of the board which appointed Ardent CEO Deborah Thomas, whose part in the handling of the fallout of the tragedy has been roundly criticised.
Four people died on the Thunder River Ride last week, when one of the rafts flipped after it bumped into another one, and the company’s management team has since been slammed for being more concerned about protecting its reputation and reopening the park than getting to the bottom of the events that led up to the tragedy.
This was fuelled by the board’s decision to continue with plans to hold its AGM two days later, with the press conference focusing on motions to give Thomas two separate bonuses.
With outgoing chair Neil Balnaves finishing up next week after 15 years in the role, business commentators say Venardos has no chance for some ‘clear air’.
However, in an article in The Australian
, Venardos’ history with the company was cited as considerable enough for him to share responsibility for the way things have been handled.
“If there is ‘blame’ to be sheeted home to the board and senior executives of Ardent over the incident, he has been as much involved at the top level of the company as many others,” the article said.
“Thomas, Venardos and the board and executives of Ardent have a tough road ahead of them,” the report continued.
“Just who will remain standing in the current team in a year’s time remains to be seen.”
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