Star Entertainment Board Ousts Chairman After Inquiry Testimony

April 30, 2024
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The chairman of Australian casino operator The Star Entertainment Group has been axed, the latest casualty of the New South Wales state gambling regulator’s second review into Star’s Sydney operations.
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The chairman of Australian casino operator The Star Entertainment Group has been axed, the latest casualty of the New South Wales (NSW) state gambling regulator’s second review into Star’s Sydney operations.

Just days after combative testimony to the second Bell inquiry into Star Entertainment’s casino licence feasibility, chairman David Foster was relegated to a board role on Monday (April 29) and replaced by fellow director Anne Ward.

“For an interim period, Mr Foster will remain on the Board of The Star and continue his executive responsibilities,” Star Entertainment said in a filing to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“Mr Foster will also remain as a director of relevant subsidiary company boards until they can be reconstituted by individuals holding necessary regulatory approvals.”

The filing did not state if Foster had resigned from the chairman’s post or if he had been pushed out by the board, nor whether his performance at the inquiry was a trigger for his removal.

However, non-executive director Anne Ward, Star’s incoming chairman, told the Bell inquiry on her second day of testimony on Monday (April 29) that the board met in Foster’s absence and came “to the conclusion that new leadership was required, and that was the decision of the board”.

Ward added that Foster will continue to serve as interim group CEO until a permanent CEO is appointed in “perhaps six to eight weeks, I couldn’t be sure”.

Previous CEO Robbie Cooke resigned in March in response to the NSW Independent Casino Commission's (NICC) loss of confidence in his ability to regain suitability for Star Entertainment.

Foster’s testimony to the inquiry last week was defensive and largely unrepentant, amid evidence that he sought to confront and undermine the NICC by planning to launch shareholder litigation against it and the special manager it appointed to supervise Star operations.

The Star Casino in Sydney is currently operating with a licence held personally by the external special manager following the regulator’s withdrawal of its licence over systematic compliance abuses.

Foster had dismissed his hoped-for removal of special manager Nicholas Weeks and “prepping for war” as “heat of the moment remarks”. He also was unable to recall the names of Star investors whom he cited as calling for Weeks’ departure.

Ward’s lengthy but laconic testimony to the board dominated appearances by Star Entertainment’s surviving directors, perhaps partly the result of the inquiry becoming aware of her appointment as chairman.

Inquiry head Adam Bell also announced on Monday that no action would be taken against Star over the late furnishing of documentary evidence on the third day of public hearings on April 17. Bell said he was satisfied that the failure to deliver the documents to the inquiry by the deadline was inadvertent.

Bell is due to deliver his report on Star Entertainment to the NICC by July 31, presaging the regulator’s final decision on Star’s casino licence suitability.

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