In the space of just three weeks of gaining a board seat, Ariadne Australia’s Gary Weiss has been appointed chairman of Ardent Leisure.
He will replace George Venardos, who was only appointed a year ago, when he succeeded the former, long-time chairman Neil Balnaves. Mr Venardos has been on the Ardent board for eight years and is retiring.
Ardent shareholders will vote on the board composition on November 20, where three directors, David Haslingden, Don Morris and Roger Davis, are up for re-election but have the support of the new chairman.
Ariadne’s director Brad Richmond is also seeking election to the Ardent board at the upcoming annual general meeting in Sydney.
Dr Weiss’ ascension to the throne at Ardent comes after a long and at times bitter campaign with Mr Venardos and the Ardent board over the running of the entertainment and leisure business. Ariadne, run by Dr Weiss and property developer Kevin Seymour, holds 11 per cent of the Ardent register.
Ardent’s troubles began in October last year after four people were killed on a ride at the Gold Coast-based theme park, Dreamworld. Two days later, Ardent held its now infamous AGM where the then chief executive Deborah Thomas was blasted by shareholders over her bonus. Ms Thomas left the group in May this year but remains as a consultant, working on the coronial inquest of the Dreamworld tragedy. She was replaced by Simon Kelly.
The group’s focus is now its Main Event entertainment business in the United States, but it has five centres in the immediate Houston area which were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas in late August.
“I would like to acknowledge the dedication with which George has led the boards through an unprecedented period and thank him for agreeing, in the interests of all security holders, to an orderly transition,” Dr Weiss said.
“As newly appointed chairman, I am committed to stabilising the structure and composition of the boards.
“On the re-election of each of those directors, I and my associated interests believe the boards will be of the right size and composition to position the Ardent Group for future success and there should be no need for any further governance changes for the foreseeable future, other than the appointment of another female independent non-executive director in line with the Ardent Group’s stated board renewal plan.”
Mr Venardos said it had been a privilege for him to serve on the Ardent board for eight years through a very challenging period.
“I have made this decision as it will assist in facilitating ongoing unity and harmony at the 1 Ariadne Australia Ltd, Kayaal Pty Limited and Viburnum Funds Pty Ltd and any of their associates,” Mr Venardos said.
Ardent’s share price rose 1.9 per cent to $1.84 and Ariadne rose 1.3 per cent to 77¢.