ARIADNE CUTS DEMANDS FOR FOUR ARDENT BOARD SEATS TO TWO AHEAD OF EGM

ARIADNE CUTS DEMANDS FOR FOUR ARDENT BOARD SEATS TO TWO AHEAD OF EGM

REBEL shareholders have reduced their demands on embattled theme parks operator Ardent Leisure (ASX: AAD) to give them four board spots, after the company acknowledged there was a need for board renewal.

Ariadne Australia (ASX: ARA), Ardent's largest shareholder, was pushing for one of its executives, Gary Weiss, and three other of its own nominees to join Ardent's board but has reduced that to just two board nominees.

A shareholder meeting is due to take place on 4 September in Sydney and Ariadne will now only propose that Weiss and Brad Richmond be appointed by the Ardent board.

Weiss and fellow activist Kevin Seymour issued a statement saying the move was designed to show that Ariadne was prepared to listen to investors and willing to work with Ardent in a "collaborative manner".

"Accordingly, in response to the feedback we have received and consistent with our assurance that we do not seek control of the Ardent board, we have determined that it is now appropriate to withdraw two of our four director nominees (namely, Mr Seymour and Mr Andrew Hedges)," the statement said.

"It also shows, as previously stated, Ariadne is not seeking to secure control of the Ardent board."

Weiss and Mr Seymour said Ardent's recently-announced appointment of a US-based director with experience in the theme parks industry, and the announcement that at least two current directors will step down in the next 15 months, will pave the way for much-needed board strengthening.

Ardent has maintained it has been seeking an experienced US based executive to join its board to help with the expansion of the Main Event business in North America, and on 14 August it appointed former Walt Disney employee Randy Garfield.

Over the past several months, Weiss and Seymour, through Ariadne and independently, have attained more than eight per cent of Ardent shares and have traded barbs with the Gold Coast-based company, saying they want to turn Ardent around.

Revenue and visitations at Dreamworld has plummeted since the deaths of four people on the Thunder River Rapids ride in October 2016. In February, Ardent Leisure posted a half year loss of $49 million, slashing the value of Dreamworld by $90 million.

Over the past few months Seymour and Weiss have been pushing for major changes and called for the removal of Ardent's directors, ahead of calling an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to force the issue on September 4.

"They've been hopeless. Until we came on the register, they were doing nothing," Seymour said of Ardent in July.

Meanwhile Ariadne has reported $79 million in net profit for the 2017 financial year, a significant lift from the $11 million on the previous year. Most of the gain was through the sale of Ariadne's 50 per cent interest in its Secure Parking business to the Park24 Group of Japan for $75 million.

Business News Australia

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