Embattled tourism group Ardent Leisure, which has struggled to rebuild public confidence following a fatal accident last year at its Dreamworld theme park, is facing a new threat.
Legendary share raider Garry Weiss on Tuesday snapped up about 5 per cent of the company’s stock as a possible prelude to forcing board and management changes.
Ardent’s share price, which has languished ever since a tragic accident at Dreamworld in October last year claimed four lives, jumped more than 10 per cent to $1.80 on heavy turnover.
It was trading about $2.85 before the accident and peaked at about $3.20 in 2014.
Dr Weiss, a close ally of Solomon Lew and who sits on the Premier Investments board, is best known for his epic corporate battles alongside Sir Ron Brierley since the 1980s at Industrial Equity, Brierley Investments and GPG.
His latest foray came as Mr Lew was understood to be involved in a tilt for control of retailer, Myer, although sources close to the Sydney businessman said the two transactions were unrelated.
Ariadne brokered raid
The purchase is understood to have been orchestrated through Ariadne Australia, a Queensland-based property developer and investment group.
Ariadne, which features tourism industry identity David Baffsky as chairman, is cashed up after selling a half share in its Secure Parking division last December for $75 million and its marinas at Port Macquarie and Batemans Bay in March last year.
Ardent Leisure has floundered since the fatal malfunction on one of its rides last year which shut down Dreamworld for almost six weeks.
Revenues in its theme park division plunged more than 60 per cent in the aftermath of the accident and, while they have since begun to recover, remain about 35 per cent below last year.
In addition to Dreamworld, Ardent owns White Water World, bowling centres in Australia and New Zealand along with health clubs and d’Albora Marinas.
If history is any guide, Dr Weiss will buy a strategic stake and purge the board and management as part of a strategy to lift performance and the company’s share price.