Deborah Thomas speaks out on Ardent Leisure’s handling of Dreamworld tragedy: ‘We thought we were doing the right thing.”
DREAMWORLD boss Deborah Thomas is stepping down from running the embattled theme park’s parent company Ardent Leisure.
Ms Thomas this morning announced that she would hand over the reins to former Nine Entertainment chief operating officer Simon Kelly on July 1, after two years as chief executive. She will take up a new role as Ardent’s chief customer officer, demoting herself in what some have called an “honourable” move.
“During Deborah’s leadership our company has experienced an unprecedented level of reorientation and change and has positioned itself strongly for solid future growth,” said Ardent chairman George Venardos in a statement to the market.
“Simon, who will transition to the role over the next few months with the support of Deborah, brings to the group a wealth of experience in the management of multinational operations, financial control and the entertainment sector.”
It comes as the company battles to revive its theme park business after tragedy struck in October, when four people died in a horrific accident at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.
The former Women’s Weekly editor, who oversaw the company’s expansion to the US, was criticised for her initial response to the deaths.
Canberra’s Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett, his partner Roozi Araghi and Sydney woman Cindy Low were killed when the Thunder Rapids ride they were on malfunctioned on October 24.
Dreamworld and WhiteWater World were closed for 45 days after the tragedy as key attractions underwent safety checks, with the Thunder River Rapids permanently closed.
Despite efforts to entice visitors back to its theme parks, Ardent Leisure recorded a $49 million loss in the first half of this financial year, prompting a 21 per cent share plunge after the results were announced in February.
“People take time to heal and it’s important — which is part of what we’ve been doing as our strategy in having this multi-tiered safety and operational review — to restore confidence and trust in Dreamworld and the theme park sector in general,” Ms Thomas said at the time.
— With AAP