Embattled casino and resorts operator The Star (ASX: SGR) has appointed the current managing director of Tyro Payments (ASX: TYR), Robert ‘Robbie’ Cooke, to the recently vacated top role.
Cooke, who also formerly helmed lotteries giant Tatts Group and hotel booking platform Wotif.com, will replace acting CEO Geoff Hogg who stepped into the temporary position after the departure of Matt Bekier.
Bekier announced his resignation in March this year in response to the findings of the Bell Review into The Star which highlighted ongoing ‘systems failures’ and ‘very significant cultural problems’ within the casino operator’s senior ranks.
The Bell Review is assessing The Star’s suitability to hold a casino licence in New South Wales - something that is currently hanging in the balance following closing submissions from counsel assisting the review Naomi Sharpe SC who claimed the company breached the Casino Control Act and potentially even ASX continuous disclosure rules.
Interim chairman Ben Heap, who was appointed after John O’Neill resigned just days before appearing before the Bell Review, said the appointment of Cooke comes after a comprehensive search conducted by executive recruitment firm Spencer Stuart.
“Following a thorough process, the board concluded that Robbie was the standout candidate with the ideal combination of experience, capabilities and attributes to lead The Star,” Heap said.
“Robbie is a trusted, respected and highly experienced chief executive. He has been the CEO of major ASX 200 listed companies and brings extensive commercial experience in operating and driving transformation programs within highly regulated environments, overseeing large workforces and building executive teams in multi-jurisdictional locations.”
Heap points to Cooke’s past at both Tatts Group and Wotif - both experiences the interim chairman believes will help the company through this current period of regulatory scrutiny.
“As CEO of the lotteries, wagering and gaming operation at Tatts Group, he led a comprehensive transformation program and secured valuable licence agreements with various State governments,” Heap said.
“In his role at Wotif.com, Robbie helped build a market leading business across the hotel sector during a period of significant industry disruption.
“Most recently at the Australian bank and payment fintech, Tyro Payments, he led the company through the post Financial Services Industry Royal Commission environment with a focus on risk culture, cultural alignment and employee engagement whilst driving strong transaction growth from around $13 billion to in excess of $30 billion over 4 years.”
Cooke said he was “delighted” about the appointment which will let him re-join the gaming and hospitality industry.
“There are challenges for The Star that have been well documented. They will be my priority and focus,” Cooke said.
“Ensuring continuity of the business through a comprehensive renewal program is of paramount importance. This is also an incredibly resilient business with thousands of team members providing the commitment, enthusiasm and inspiration that helps deliver outstanding customer service.
“Major development projects are also underway or in planning across The Star, and in South East Queensland they represent transformational opportunities for the Company and the state. It’s all the more exciting with the Olympics on their way in 2032.”
Tyro Payments chair David Thodey today farewelled Cooke, who is stepping down after five years of leadership at the payments company.
"The Board and I would like to thank Robbie for his contribution to our business and wish him all the best for his next chapter," Thodey said.
"We remain committed to providing outstanding customer service to our merchants and partners through innovative products and technology, driving operating leverage, and accelerating our move to become free cash flow positive.”
The Star says Cooke’s commencement date will be confirmed in the near future, and his appointment is subject to regulatory approvals in NSW and Queensland.
He will be paid a fixed salary of $1.6 million plus short- and long-term bonuses subject to The Star achieving certain financial goals.
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