What a shambles: Investors look on in horror as Star loses yet another CEO

Could it get any worse for Star Entertainment?

Mar 25, 2024, updated Mar 25, 2024
Robbie Cooke, CEO of Star Entertainment. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Robbie Cooke, CEO of Star Entertainment. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Considering the company’s shares defied expectations and bounced briefly higher on the opening bell on Monday on big volume the answer is yes, indeed. This is an unfurling disaster.

Rudderless, chaotic, bleeding billions of dollars in market value and facing a second inquiry into operations in NSW, the company behind the $3.5 billion Queens Wharf casino development in Brisbane, is a bloody mess after it announced its chief executive Robbie Cooke would be leaving.

How long can its lenders hang on as investors punish the company over its chaotic path to recovery?

Investors are now looking through their hands at the share price as former Suncorp Bank chief executive David Foster steps in to control the damage until they find a new CEO. That won’t be easy, either.

Foster admitted, indirectly, that some of its stakeholders had lost trust in the business.

Foster knows a crisis. He took control of Suncorp Bank just before Lehmann Bros collapsed in 2008 and turmoil became a byword for banking.

The resignation of Cooke may have been necessary but it could not come at a worse time for the company which is in the final stages of the troubled and delayed development of Queens Wharf.

His departure was met with resignations of other executives, including its chief financial officer Christina Katsibouba, although the reason for her departure was not revealed.

Chief of staff Peter Jenkins has also reportedly gone in Friday’s purge, along with chief customer officer George Hughes.

Apparently, Cooke’s decision relates to concerns about the lack of speed in reform within the company and that the culture that led to its life threatening $200 million in fines after inquiries in NSW and Queensland could still exist.

That, in itself, is a troubling issue.

What is still unknown are the findings of a secretive Queensland Government investigation into the company and its activities in this state.

There also remains the questions over its joint venture partners in Queens Wharf and their suitability.

When the doors of the casino finally open after extensive delays, it will be greatly changed beast that sits on prime riverfront real estate in the central business district.

For a start, its market value has tanked. A year ago, Star was trading at $1.34 and closed on Friday it was 54 cents. They have fallen 83 per cent since 2022.

Pub baron Bruce Mathieson stepped in with capital this time last year to keep the company going but even he must be wondering just how bad could this get.

Purged of the leadership and board that kicked off the development and negotiated with its joint venture partners, Star now also has to deal with much tougher trading restrictions that were imposed on it by the Queensland Parliament ahead of the Cooke resignation.

That adds to the 640 milestones it has to reach across 15 different work streams in its remediation plan that was designed to get its licence back.

It will have to implement carded play, restrictions on the use of cash, mandatory player pre-commitment as well as pay a supervisory levy to pay for oversight of its activities.

It also is $200 million worse off from fines imposed on it by the NSW and Queensland governments over appalling breaches in its operational standards that allowed criminals banned from its Sydney casino to bet in Queensland.

Cooke resigned because of concerns held by the NSW Independent Casino Commission head Phillip Crawford had relating to key executives within Star as he heads into a second review of the company.

David Foster has had to step in to clean up the mess.

“We remain absolutely committed to being judged suitable to hold a licence in NSW and Queensland,’’ Foster said.

“In taking on executive duties I am determined that the positive momentum at The Star continues as we work to win back the trust of our stakeholders,’’ Foster said.


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