Simon Kelly steps down from CEO post at Ardent Leisure

Ardent Leisure boss bails out after just four months at troubled theme park business

Ardent Leisure boss Simon Kelly makes a rapid exit after new boardroom takes control. AAP/Dreamworld

The turmoil that has plagued Ardent Leisure, operator of the Gold Coast Dreamworld theme park, has continued with its new chief executive bailing out after little more than four months in the job.

Key points:

  • The troubled operator of the Dreamworld theme park will get its third chief executive in less than 5 months after the resignation of Simon kelly
  • The change at the top follows activist investors taking control of the boardroom
  • Shares tumble as trading update shows the company is still struggling in the wake of ladt year’s Dreamworld tragedy

In a statement to the ASX, Ardent said Simon Kelly’s resignation from his roles as chief executive officer and managing director was effective immediately.

Mr Kelly — a former senior executive at Nine Entertainment — took over from former chief executive Deborah Thomas in April in the wake of last year’s tragic accident at the Dreamworld theme park which killed four people, as well as a slump in its US based-operations.

It is understood Mr Kelly’s resignation coincided with a shake-up of Ardent’s board which had been forced before a threatened extraordinary general meeting in September.

Veteran corporate raider Gary Weiss and US-based executive Brad Richmond were elected to the board representing Ardent’s biggest and unhappiest shareholder, Ariadne Australia.

Dr Weiss became chairman and immediately adopted a more hands-on approach in the business.

“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,” Dr Weiss said in a statement to the ASX.

Mr Kelly is quoted as saying: “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.”

“I remain very positive about the potential of the Group’s businesses,” he said.

Dreamworld is “breaking even”

Ardent also released a trading update noting conditions at Dreamworld remained challenging, although the business was above “break-even” and operating in line with expectations.

The US-based Main Event business reported marginally higher revenues compared to this time last year, although the result was flattened buy the recent hurricanes that hit Florida and the south-west.

“The Board continues to work collaboratively and remains unanimously committed to the previously announced strategic initiatives,” Dr Weiss said.

Chief financial officer Geoff Richardson assumes the chief executive role on an interim basis, while board member Brad Richardson will take control of the US business.

Ardent Leisure shares fell almost 4 per cent on the news to $1.80 (12:30PM AEST), around half the price it was trading at three years ago.

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