Star CEO Matt Bekier Falls Falls on His Sword

Star Entertainment is looking for a new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer after Matt Bekier resigned with immediate effect.

Star Entertainment is looking for a new CEO after Matt Bekier resigned with immediate effect. Bekier stepped down following damning evidence showing Star disguising gambling payments as hotel expenses. Star issued a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on March 28.

“The Star Entertainment Group Limited advises that Mr Matt Bekier has tendered his resignation as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer. The Board has accepted his resignation.”

“Mr Bekier’s decision follows issues raised in the public hearings in connection with the review of The Star Sydney being undertaken by Mr Adam Bell SC. While the review remains ongoing, Mr Bekier informed the Board that as Managing Director and CEO he is accountable for the effectiveness and adequacy of the company’s processes, policies, people and culture. Mr Bekier said the right thing to do was for him to take responsibility.”

“Me Bekier will step down from the Board immediately, and will work with the Board to transition his executive responsibilities in an orderly manner. Mr Bekier’s final departure date is yet to be determined.”

Bekier Steps Down Following Senior Manager’s Evidence

David Aloi is Star’s regulatory manager. Aloi gave evidence at the public hearings that are part of the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) inquiry. Aloi revealed he knew about the practice of funding China Union Pay customers’ gambling accounts and disguising them as hotel expenses. China Union Pay does not permit gambling transactions on its cards.

Aloi told Commissioner Adam Bell SC the work-around made him uncomfortable. In addition, he raised concerns to Star’s senior management team. The senior managers swept it under the carpet and ordered Aloi to tow the company line. Aloi also contacted the National Australia Bank account manager. He asked whether or not Star’s workaround was permissible. The bank account manager said he could not see a problem.

Further revelations saw Aloi admit misleading the National Australia Bank.

The inquiry revealed Star hid up to $900 million of illegal gambling using this workaround.

More Star Resignations Expected

Bekier led Star Entertainment since 2014 and commanded a chunky salary and bonus package. The now-former Star CEO walked away with $2.3 million in 2020 despite Star receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in Jobkeeper subsidies. Bekier collected a $1.55 million basic salary in addition to $829,872 in deferred shares.

Helen Bird predicted several Star Board members will follow their leader to the job centre.

“The chair [John O’Neill] has nowhere to go, he must go. He was too close in relationship and the way he behaved to what Bekier was saying, he essentially endorsed him rather than challenging him.”

Bird called for at least half the current board to do the right thing and step aside from their roles.

“There also needs to be a refreshment of the board. We don’t want anyone there who will sit there and accept what’s happened. You need people to question the way forward. If we allow the enablers who caused or allowed this misconduct to continue in the job, we should have little confidence that they can fix it.”

The Star situation is following a similar path to that of rivals Crown Resorts. Royal commissions deemed Crown unsuitable to hold a gaming license in the three states in which it operates. However, Crown continues operating following a swathe of reforms, including the resignation of several board members.

There is every chance the ILGA will find Star unsuitable for a gaming licence. Indeed, it is very unlikely it will not reach this conclusion. However, Bekier’s resignation and any subsequent resignations will go some way to appease the ILGA. There is every chance Star continues operating its Sydney casino even if found unsuitable for a licence. Expect a substantial fine in addition to severe restrictions on the casino’s operations.