ARDENT CEO SIMON KELLY RESIGNS

ARDENT CEO SIMON KELLY RESIGNS

JUST five months after taking on the role of CEO at Ardent Leisure (ASX: AAD), Simon Kelly has stepped down in a shock move for the entertainment group.

Kelly, who took the helm of the embattled company from Deborah Thomas in June, has resigned, effective immediately.

The resignation comes after the company announced it was trading in line with earnings expectations for the year.

Ardent, the parent company of Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld, did not disclose any reason for Kelly's resignation, but says it will promptly commence a search for a new CEO.

Kelly, who stepped into the role replacing Thomas who left after a two-year stint marred by the tragic deaths of four people at Dreamworld late last year, says he is positive about the direction Ardent is heading.

"It has been a pleasure to lead the Group and I am pleased that we have made real progress on our strategic and operational priorities," says Kelly.

"I remain very positive about the potential of the group's business."

Newly-appointed chairman and corporate veteran Gary Weiss, says the resignation comes as a disappointment to the company.

"The board of directors is disappointed with Simon's resignation and would like to thank him for his contribution to the group and wish him well in the future," says Weiss.

Chief Financial Officer, Geoff Richardson, will assume the role of interim CEO immediately.

Ardent Leisure is trading broadly in line with earnings expectations for FY18, but the group's Main Event segment continues to be challenged.

The group's Dreamworld arm trading remains to be challenged too, but Ardent says this is to be expected.

The news of Kelly's shock departure follows an announcement in September that the US based Main Event business that its CEO Charlie Keegan had resigned.

At the time, the theme park operator did not disclose a reason for Keegan's resignation.

AAD shares have dropped by just under 3 percent to $1.82 per share at around 11.30am (AEDST).

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