DEBORAH THOMAS DEPARTS ARDENT FOR GOOD AS SIMON KELLY STEPS IN EARLY

DEBORAH THOMAS DEPARTS ARDENT FOR GOOD AS SIMON KELLY STEPS IN EARLY

ARDENT Leisure (ASX: AAD) has confirmed that former CEO Deborah Thomas (pictured) will be leaving the company for good, just weeks after she was removed from top job to assume other roles on the board.

In late April, a leadership shakeup saw Thomas step down into the roles of chief customer officer (group) and chief operating officer (Australasia), while former Nine Entertainment executive Simon Kelly was appointed to take the titles CEO and MD.

Kelly will sit on the Ardent board alongside his former broadcasting colleague David Haslingden, who also left Nine in 2016 amid its major management reshuffle.

Under the initial timeframe Kelly would have joined the Ardent board on 1 July 2017, however due to Thomas' sudden departure he will take on the roles immediately.

Thomas will walk away from the company with a termination benefit of $731,000 and, for the time being, will be paid a further $3,000 a day to remain a consultant as the coronial inquest into the Dreamworld tragedy which claimed the lives of four continues.

Ardent chairman George Venardos has thanked Thomas for her contributions CEO, although he says her tenure unfortunately coincided with an exceptionally "challenging period in the Group's history".

"It is a testament to Deborah's professionalism and character that she has agreed to remain part of the team and provide valuable support and continuity to Ardent and the various official bodies preparing the Coronial Inquiry into the Dreamworld tragedy," says Venardos.

"The Coronial Inquiry is of great importance and priority to Ardent and of all the families, staff and members of the community impacted by that tragedy, and Deborah will help ensure Ardent gives that process the full attention, focus and resources it rightly deserves."

Kelly has now kicked off the hunt for a new chief financial officer, working closely with Ardent's external recruitment firm to evaluate candidates.

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