Ardent names Gary Weiss as new chairman

Veteran corporate raider Gary Weiss has been named as the new chairman of embattled theme parks operator Ardent Leisure after months of challenging the company’s incumbent board on its performance.

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Ardent announced on Friday that George Venardos will step down as chairman and as a director and Mr Weiss will take on the chairman’s role immediately

Mr Weiss is executive director of Ardent’s largest shareholder Ariadne Australia and his appointment comes after the owner of Dreamworld agreed earlier this month to appoint him and his ally Brad Richmond to the board to avert a spill vote on Ardent’s board.

In a company statement to the ASX, Mr Venardos said he has agreed to an orderly transition.

Mr Weiss said he was committed to stabilising the structure and composition of the board and he and his company Ariadne will support the re-election of David Haslingden, Don Morris and Roger Davis at Ardent’s annual general meeting on November 20.

He said on the re-election of each of those directors, the board will be of the “right size and composition to position the Ardent Group for future success.”

“As chairman, I am committed to a stable board environment and ensuring that we are focused on delivering on the potential of our businesses in the interests of all stakeholders,” he said in the statement.

Mr Weiss has led a campaign since June to overhaul Ardent’s board, attacking the company’s governance and performance.

Visitor numbers at Dreamworld have not recovered since the deaths of four people on a ride at the theme park in October, 2016, and the company’s share price has also remained well down on its historical highs.

Ardent posted a $62.6 million loss for the 2017 financial year.