News National ‘Pay for the suffering’, Dreamworld bosses told

‘Pay for the suffering’, Dreamworld bosses told

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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Shareholders from Dreamworld’s parent company, Ardent Leisure, have asked the company to go beyond what it has to do to support victims’ families, and to be “compassionate and generous”.

Ardent Leisure chairman Neil Balnaves opened the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Sydney with condolences to the victims and families of Tuesday’s deadly incident.

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

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

He told the meeting everyone at the company was grieving and “very much affected by the seriousness of this terrible accident”.

Ms Thomas was at the Gold Coast yesterday to talk to employees and today described the accident as “catastrophic”.

She said they were fully cooperating with authorities and the Dreamworld accident would have a significant impact on company earnings.

A slide presentation shown to shareholders outlined the impact on earnings.

“Revenue lost as a result of this tragic event will have a significant impact on [earnings] for the remainder of the year, due to the high level of fixed costs required to operate the business,” it said.

Mr Balnaves described the accident as a “tragedy of proportions never seen in this business before”.

He also defended Dreamworld’s safety record, hitting back at union claims there was an unsafe culture at the theme park.

“Dreamworld has a strong safety culture and this is of paramount importance to the Board – it is not to be underestimated.”

Ms Thomas asked shareholders not to jump to conclusions about the accident.

“I understand the intense interest in this catastrophic event and appreciate that there are many questions to be answered, but I ask for your patience as we work through these with the authorities to establish the facts,” she said.

The meeting heard inquiries into the incident may take months.

‘People have to be reimbursed’

Outside the meeting, shareholder Holger Scholz said he felt terrible about what had happened.

“When I heard about it a few days ago I was absolutely shocked. We don’t know what happened, why it happened, if there was neglect or just an accident,” he said.

“I feel that the people, especially the children, they should be compensated. The company should pay for the suffering.”

He also said he would probably vote against giving a share bonus to CEO Deborah Thomas in light of this week’s events.

Neil Balnaves said the incident will have an impact on future revenue. Photo: AAP.
Neil Balnaves said the incident will have an impact on future revenue. Photo: AAP.

“I’d probably vote against it after what happened. I think we as shareholders, we probably lost a lot of money when the shares went down.

“I think the people have got to be reimbursed for what happened.”

Ardent owns several amusement parks as well as gyms, bowling alleys and marinas.

The parent company yesterday recorded its biggest one-day share price loss since March 2015 and since Monday afternoon, stocks plunged more than 20 per cent.

The company’s name was also expected to be changed to Main Event Entertainment Limited.

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