News National Dreamworld chief Deborah Thomas gets $843,000 bonus
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Dreamworld chief Deborah Thomas gets $843,000 bonus

DEborah Thomas Ardent Leisure boss gets $731,000 payout
Ardent Leisure chief executive Deborah Thomas arriving at the shareholders' meeting in October. Photo: AAP
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The relatively new chief of Dreamworld parent company Ardent Leisure has become emotional during a press conference when asked whether it is appropriate that she receive $843,000 in bonuses.

Shareholders voted to award Ms Thomas about $843,000 in performance bonuses at the AGM in Sydney on Thursday.

However, Ardent chairman Neil Balnaves denied one shareholder’s request that votes be re-run because they had been collected on Tuesday morning, before the accident.

Chairman Neil Balnaves said bonuses were solely related to her performance over the prior financial year.

Ms Thomas, who took up the role in April 2015, was asked by media on Thursday whether she felt she should be in line for the incentive package – which some media outlets had originally claimed could be as high as $1 million.

When pushed, Ms Thomas angrily told media: “I am not getting paid $1 million” and asked for the line of questioning to be moved on.

“Four people died very recently, and we are all shattered by this. So, right now, I do not want to discuss transactions.”

Ms Thomas had her bonus heavily scrutinised during Ardent’s AGM in Sydney on Thursday morning.

deborah thomas ardent
Deborah Thomas spent decades in the media before taking up the helm. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Thomas also rejected suggestions that she and company executives had not shown enough empathy to the victims’ families, and nor had they done enough to help the families affected.

“I am a mother, I have a family. I take my family to Dreamworld. This could have been my family and I completely am sympathetic to what they must be going through.”

A report from Fairfax on Thursday claimed Ms Thomas’s bonus package could total $670,000, while The Australian claimed that figure could be as high as $860,000.

Between 2015 and 2016, Ardent’s profit lifted 32 per cent to $42 million.

Ms Thomas’ appointment as Ardent chief was seen as controversial due to her lack of extensive business experience.

A former editor-in-chief of magazine Australian Women’s Weekly, she brought 30 years of media experience to the job – much of which will be called on to guide the company’s response to Tuesday’s tragic events.

Ardent Leisure’s share price plunged almost 30 per cent after four people were killed on Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride on Tuesday afternoon.

The theme park is now under increasing pressure after it was revealed Queensland safety inspector Shaun Langdon declared 13 of Dreamworld’s rides “not fit for service” after inspecting ride air compressors in 2012.

Ardent Leisure also owns AMF Bowling, WhiteWater World and Main Event bowling and theme-park centres in the US.

Under Ms Thomas’ guidance, the company sold off its Goodlife Health Clubs arm in 2016 to concentrate on its US ventures.

 

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