Anne Ward named new chair of The Star as David Foster joins leadership exodus

Anne Ward named new chair of The Star as David Foster joins leadership exodus

Anne Ward, the new chair of The Star Entertainment Group

The revolving door of leadership at The Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR) continues to work overtime with the announcement today that David Foster has relinquished his role as executive chairman.

In a brief statement to the ASX this morning, The Star says that non-executive director Anne Ward has been appointed chairman of the board effective immediately.

The Star offers no explanation for the leadership change which comes after two weeks of intensive scrutiny by the second Bell inquiry that was triggered by the company’s souring relationship with the NSW casino regulator described as a "state of war".

The company says Foster will remain on the board for an interim period and “continue his executive responsibilities” while a search for a CEO continues.

Foster assumed the role of executive chairman on 22 March following the resignation of Robbie Cooke as CEO.

The former chairman and former CEO have been key targets of the second Bell inquiry into The Star called by the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) to determine the suitability of the company to hold a casino licence.

The inquiry has been largely bogged down by office politics, particularly Cooke’s relationship with the senior leadership group and special manager Nicholas Weeks, who was appointed by the NICC in 2022 to oversee The Star’s remediation plan.

It remains unclear whether Foster has resigned on the same grounds as Cooke offered, namely that hat his leadership would not be conducive to a positive casino licence suitability determination by the regulator.

Today’s announcement also does not confirm whether Foster has resigned or whether he was urged to step down as executive chairman by the board.

The announcement is likely to be carefully worded in light of heavy questioning by Caspar Conde, the special counsel assisting Adam Bell SC in his inquiry, over whether Cooke had resigned of his own accord on 22 March or was pushed.

Cooke and Foster join a raft of senior resignations at The Star over the past six months that have included former CFO Christina Katsibouba, former chief customer and product officer George Hughes and former chief legal officer Betty Ivanoff. 

The Star today says that Foster will remain as a director of “relevant subsidiary company boards until they can be reconstituted by individuals holding necessary regulatory approvals”.

Foster’s departure has worsened the leadership vacuum at The Star which the Bell inquiry revealed has heaped pressure on the existing leadership team amid the demands of implementing the remediation program directed by the NICC.

The company’s new chair has been on The Star’s board since November 2022 and is described by the company as offering “considerable experience in complex governance, transformation and risk management across highly regulated sectors, including casinos”.

Ward is currently chair of ecommerce company Articore Group (ASX: ATG) and until February this year was chair of communication software provider Symbio Holdings.

Ward also lists a part-time directorship at Crown Resorts until June 2022, prior to her appointment as non-executive director at The Star in August 2022.

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