Head of Ardent's US business to step down

Stuart Condie and Prashant Mehra | 12 Sep 2017

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SYDNEY - [AAP] The chief executive of Ardent Leisure's (ASX: AAD) US business will step down in November.

The theme park operator did not give a reason for Charlie Keegan's resignation, but said he would consult for the business over the next 12 months to facilitate an orderly transition.

A global search firm has been engaged to find a successor to lead Main Event through its next phase of development, Ardent said in a statement to the ASX on Tuesday.

Morningstar analyst Brian Han said problems associated with the expansion of Main Event--which operates bowling, gaming and dining centres in the US--was one of the reasons for the emergence of shareholder unrest at the company.

Ardent earlier in September staved off a planned shareholder vote by inviting two rebel shareholders onto its board.

"Recent growing pains in the US Main Event division and lingering impact from the October 2016 Dreamworld tragedy are hampering earnings and have led to the emergence of a substantial activist shareholder on the register," Mr Han wrote in a note.

"We see this as a positive in awakening the board and management, with initiatives to improve performance already under way."

A better-than-expected finish to the financial year by Main Event helped Ardent lift earnings in a year that featured problems at its local theme park unit following the deaths of four people on a ride at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.

The fallout from the tragedy included the departure of Deborah Thomas as group chief executive.

Mr Keegan led Main Event to a 30 per cent rise in full-year revenue, and a 5.6 per cent rise in earnings.

He had been involved with Main Event since 2006, overseeing its expansion from six bowling centres in Texas to 38 centres across the US, Ardent managing director Simon Kelly said.

Mr Keegan will step down from his position on November 24.

"The company has a strong leadership team in place and I have every confidence in their ability to ensure the company's continued success," Mr Keegan said.

Ardent committed future cashflow from Main Event towards reinvestment in growth.

At 1030 AEST, shares in Ardent were 4.5 cents, or 2.59 per cent, higher at $1.78.

 

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