John O’Neill Resigns As Star Chairman

The often controversial John O'Neill is the latest Star Entertainment executive to resign. He leave his post as executive chairman on May 31.

The fallout from the inquiry into Star Sydney continues with Chairman John O’Neill the latest executive leaving his post. O’Neill tendered his resignation before the weekend, which Star accepted. O’Neill is the latest in a long line of Star directors to step down, including CEO Matt Bekier.

Star investors learned of the new via a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“The Star Entertainment Group Limited announces that Mr John O’Neill AO has tendered his resignation as Executive Chairman and will also step down from the board with a departure date to be agree. Mr O’Neill was appointed to the Executive Chairman role on an interim basis on April 1, 2022, following the resignation on March 28, 2022, of Managing Director and CEO Matt Bekier. He will transition his chair and executive responsibilities in an orderly manner.”

O’Neill was a controversial figure before his Star tenure. He was the CEO of the Australian Rugby Union and although he helped grow the game, his flamboyant and outspoken nature often rubbed people up the way.

O’Neill Fires Parting Shot During Inquiry

O’Neill is not a man to mince his words, so it was unsurprising that he fired some parting shots following his resignation. He is giving evidence at the Star Sydney inquiry. It was here that he threw three of his former colleagues under the bus.

He told the inquiry it was a key mistake promoting some of the company’s executives into senior positions. O’Neill named investigations officer Kevin Houlihan, compliance manager Graeme Stevens, and chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin as three execs that gained promotion to roles “beyond their competencies.”

“They were promoted to bigger and bigger roles over time. With the benefit of hindsight, the organisation should have given more thought into training and upskilling them for that role.”

Martin came in for more stick from the outspoken character. She handed in her notice at the beginning of May.

“She didn’t have sufficient background and experience in the risk and compliance space. They asked too much of her to over the full suite of responsibilities.”

Star Appoints Interim Chairman and Acting CEO

Chairmen and CEOs are vital cogs in any business’s machine, which is one reason they command high salaries. Star Entertainment wasted little time in announcing O’Neill’s replacement in addition to informing investors of a new acting CEO.

Ben Heap assumes the role of interim chairman from June 1, 2022. Geoff Hogg joins the company on the same date as the acting chief executive officer.

“The Star Entertainment Group Limited advises that Mr Ben Heap will assume the role of interim chairman and Mr Geoff Hogg the position of Acting Chief Executive Officer from June 1, 2022, (subject to any regulatory approvals) following the resignation of Mr John O’Neill AO as Executive Chairman.”

“Mr O’Neill will transition his chair and executive responsibilities in an orderly manner and will formally stand down on May 31, 2022.”

“A search for a permanent CEO commenced last month. Remuneration arrangements for Mr Hogg, who is currently the interim Chief Casino Officer for NSW and Queensland, will be announced prior to him starting as acting CEO.”

Share Price Almost At An All-Time Low

Star hopes these two appointments will steady the ship. All the uncertainty is playing havoc with the company’s share price. Shares currently trade at $3.050 per share, their lowest point for almost two years. You have to go back to mid-2014 to find Star shares as cheap. Those same shares peaked at $6.04 as 2017 ended.

Although the share price is low, it is still some way off from the company’s all-time low. This happened in early 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They hit an all-time low of $2.09.