Dreamworld is over after Ardent Leisure boss walks away from $1m share bonus
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Dreamworld is over after Ardent Leisure boss walks away from $1m share bonus

When financial buccaneers gain a foothold on your corporate ship blood is bound to be spilt.

So should we be surprised that just two months after corporate raider Gary Weiss joined the Ardent Leisure board the Dreamworld owner faces a new nightmare?

Former Ardent Leisure CEO Simon Kelly said the US Main Event operation will be the driver of growth.

Former Ardent Leisure CEO Simon Kelly said the US Main Event operation will be the driver of growth.

Photo: Ben Rushton

Its CEO Simon Kelly has walked the plank with immediate effect less than five months after he started.

The good news is the abrupt departure was as amicable as that of his predecessor, former Women's Weekly editor, Deborah Thomas.

Called upon to join the board: Gary Weiss has tasted victory in his assault on Ardent Leisure.

Called upon to join the board: Gary Weiss has tasted victory in his assault on Ardent Leisure.

Photo: Ryan Stuart
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"The board of directors is disappointed with Simon's departure," sighed its new chairman Weiss.

According to Kelly it was a case of "mission accomplished" in less than five months.

"It has been a pleasure to lead the group and I am pleased that we have made real progress in our strategic and operational priorities."

The most impressive thing was that Kelly took a lowly pay-packet of $600,000 – less than the $670,000 Thomas received last year – partly in lieu of a $1.5 million share grant that would keep him in place until July 1, 2020.

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare

His early departure means he will only receive a fraction of this share bonus, plus six months pay in lieu of notice.

That means he has kissed goodbye to more than $1 million worth of shares he would have received just by hanging around for a few more years.

It might well be that Kelly's days were numbered when the man who fought so hard to keep the Weiss guys off Ardent's board – former chairman George Vernardos – lost the chairman's gig to Weiss within weeks of the raiders getting their board seats.

Weiss tipped his hand on Monday when he announced plans to step down from Solomon Lew's Premier Group board.

It will be interesting to see what David Haslingden thinks of the latest developments. He was chairman at Nine Entertainment when Kelly was the group's chief financial officer.

Overbooked

Arriving at the Canberra press gallery in trays this week were two envelopes containing identically-shaped invitations.

One, from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was for its annual business leaders dinner, with guest speaker Scott Morrison on Wednesday, November 29, 6pm for 7pm.

The other, from the Australian Industry Group, was for its end of year dinner, Wednesday, November 29, 6.30pm for 7pm.

It's fair to say they don't collude, or check journalist's calendars.

It's also Walkley night. The word from the gallery is that the Group has better food and drinks than the Chamber. And there's no guest speaker.

Piggy bank

While the Westpac annual report revealed the statutory remuneration of its CEO, Brian Hartzer, stagnated last year at $6.7 million, the good news is that his actual pay last year – which includes bonuses that actually vested – was up substantially.

Hartzer's actual remuneration rose more than $500,000 to $5.45 million, and unlike ANZ boss Shayne Elliott – none of Hartzer's subordinates earned more than him. That's a bonus in itself.

And meanwhile, boardroom newbie former RBA governor Glenn Stevens, has been making the right impression with his new friends at Nic Moore's Macquarie Group.

His initial director's interest notice revealed he had contract to purchase $20,000 worth of Macquarie securities when he joined on November 1, on top of the 28 Macquarie shares and 413 Macquarie Atlas Roads Group securities owned by a family trust.

The bad news is it leaves Stevens with just 228 Macquarie shares, which means he has to acquire another 5772 to reach the minimum shareholding requirement for a non-executive director. At current prices that will set him back $560,000.

The good news is he has another five years to get there and the current base pay for a board member at Macquarie is around $328,000.

Sol oh!

And where would we be without our daily update from retail guru Solly Lew, in his battle with Myer's not-quite-chairman-yet, Gary Hounsell.

The latest outrage is Hounsell's alleged suggestion that Premier did not name the two directors it nominated from its board to join Myer's board, as well as the independent director.

Premier announced the former Myers Grace Bros boss Terry McCartney, and former UBS boss Tim Antonie, were the two board members it wanted to cross-germinate with Myer.

And the independent part is none other than the mastermind behind Vicinity Centres, Steven Sewell.

He was meant to run Vicinity post-merger but investors opted for the CEO who was meant to lose out from the transaction – former Novion boss Angus McNaughton.

But Sewell knows retail property.

"Myer simply lacks the nous at board level to find solutions with its landlords. It also lacks the courage and experience to make big decisions on this issue," said the release from Premier.

Follow CBD on Twitter. Got a tip? ckruger@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Colin Kruger

Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald's deputy business editor and online business editor.

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