ARDENT FACING BOARD SHAKE DOWN AS ACTIVIST INVESTORS MAKE THEIR MOVE
Written on the 14 June 2017 by David Simmons
ARIADNE Australia, the largest securityholder of Ardent Leisure Group (ASX: AAD), has called for the removal of Ardent directors.
Ariadne announced this afternoon that they have given notice to Ardent of their intention to call and arrange an extraordinary general meeting of Ardent Leisure shareholders to move resolutions removing current directors and appointing additional directors.
Ariadne holds 9.86 per cent of the issued capital of Ardent Leisure Group, making it the largest shareholder of the company which owns the struggling Dreamworld theme park.
Ariadne has made requests for Gary Weiss and Kevin Seymour to be appointed to the Ardent board.
Both Weiss and Seymour are currently directors of Ariadne and other Australian corporations including Ridley Corporation Limited, Secure Parking Pty Ltd, and Tatts Group.
Ardent responded in an update on board representation that they are conducting a search process for two US-based, independent non-executive directors.
The company stressed that any decision about new appointees should not be made until Ardent can complete its own search.
"The Ardent Board strongly believes that any decision regarding additional directors should not be made until that search process is near completion and all potential candidates have been prudently evaluated and vetted," says Ardent.
"In the meantime, to the extent any meeting of securityholders is called to vote on the Ariadne and Kayaal resolutions, the Ardent Board does not intend to support those resolutions."
Ardent chairman George Vernardos says the moves by Ariadne are an attempt to overthrow the current powers of the board.
"While we are encouraged they now agree with our strategy to appoint US-based Directors with relevant experience to the board, it is clear they want to override the board's existing search process and exert undue influence over the company's affairs," says Vernardos.
These moves against Ardent follow news relating to early departure of former CEO Deborah Thomas who was was replaced by former Nine Entertainment executive Simon Kelly three weeks earlier than expected.
The company has struggled to regain revenue and visitors to Dreamworld following the deaths of four visitors in 2016.
The latest figures from the theme park show visitor numbers down 35.8 per cent in May compared to the same month in 2016.
Ardent's theme park revenue is also down 35.4 per cent to $3.9 million.
In late May, the company announced it was considering the future of Dreamworld and has been in discussions about potentially rezoning areas of the park.
In April rumours circulated that Ardent might sell Dreamworld to Chinese tourism company Songchen Group.
Author: David Simmons