Star Entertainment names O’Neill as interim executive chairman

| By Robert Fletcher
Australia’s Star Entertainment Group has announced the appointment of John O’Neill as interim executive chairman with immediate effect.
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O’Neill will lead the business in his new role following last week’s departure of long-serving chief executive and managing director Matt Bekier.

Bekier stepped down in direct response to a review into Star’s casino in Sydney, which launched in June last year amid concerns over ongoing over the venue’s possible breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws at its casinos.

Executive search company Spencer Stuart has commenced the search for a new managing director and CEO, though Bekier will be available in the short term to provide handover assistance.

O’Neill will be paid additional remuneration of AU$1.5m (£850,000/€1.0m/US$1.1m) per annum while he serves as executive chairman, bringing his total remuneration to AU$2.0m per year while in the role.

“While the board considers it critical that the company has stability in this transitional period to a new managing director and CEO, it acknowledges the need for accelerated board change,” Star said.

“As Star continues to focus on its day-to-day business, it is also committed to its more than 8,000 team members after two years of Covid-related shutdowns and restrictions.”

Referencing the ongoing review of its operations, which was expanded in January this year to assess other entities within the group, Star said it continues to cooperate fully.

Public hearings into Star’s activities, which are ongoing, have so far heard a series of claims, including that Star allowed junket operator Suncity to operate its own cage at the Star Sydney casino, where it exchanged chips for cash, despite this contravening the New South Wales Casino Control Act.

The case also asserts that Star’s representations about policies being in place to mitigate risks such as money laundering, corruption, bribery, insider trading and restrictions on the use of gambling products were misleading or deceptive.

Also this week, Star was served with a securities class action lawsuit by Slater & Gordon on behalf of investors seeking compensation for alleged “misleading or deceptive representations” the operator made about its compliance with regulatory obligations.

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