Ardent Leisure’s AGM held days after theme park fatalities

Australian entertainments group, Ardent Leisure, held its AGM just two days after an accident at its theme park Dreamworld in which four people died and two children were injured on a river rapids ride. The out-going chairman, Neil Banaves, offered sincere condolences to the victims and their families but said that despite the seriousness of the incident they were still required to convene the AGM as planned. This was to comply with the company’s constitution, and because it was a statutory meeting.

Ardent Leisure Logo

However, the decision brought criticism from commentators in Australia when the voting results showed that even before the tragedy there was shareholder disquiet about chief executive (CEO), Deborah Thomas’s, remuneration. Neil Chenoworth wrote in the Australian Financial Review: “Other chief executives  would have given up their performance bonus. It’s awkward for the board to insist on voting to approve incentive packages for CEO Thomas worth $1.1 million on top of a deferred cash bonus of $167,500 judged in part on safety issues, when the maintenance record of Dreamworld’s rides has come under intense scrutiny.”

Chenoworth added that: “The really awkward part of this is that the board decided not to adjourn the meeting or to hold over the vote on Thomas’s long-term incentive package.

Thomas later said that she would donate her $167,500 cash bonus to Australia’s Red Cross which has been supporting those affected by the tragedy at Dreamworld.

The results showed that there was a 40.3% vote against Thomas’s long-term incentive package, a 31.3% vote against a rule change in its long-term incentive plan and a 8.4% vote against the company’s remuneration report.

Following the fatalities at the Dreamworld theme park the company ride stated it was fully compliant with all required safety certifications. The river rapids ride had completed its annual mechanical and and structural safety engineering inspection on 29th September 2016.

The company was forced to postpone a reopening of the theme park following discussions with the Queensland Police because of the ongoing investigation into the accident. The re-opening was due to begin with a memorial event with proceeds going to the Red Cross. Following reports that the families had not been contacted by the company, Ardent also had to clarify that it was providing support to the the victims families through the Queensland police liaison office

Shareholders did give overwhelming backing at the AGM to a change of name at the company to Main Event Entertainment following a move out of the health club sector which Chenoworth suggested was one piece of good news for a damaged brand.

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