Ardent Leisure director and former Disney executive Randy Garfield says icon won’t buy Dreamworld

DISNEY has never bought an existing theme park and is unlikely to start now, according to Randy Garfield, a 20-year veteran of the US entertainment icon who was just appointed to the board of Dreamworld parent Ardent Leisure.

Shareholders at yesterday’s annual general meeting grilled directors over their plans to reverse the fortunes of the group, which registered an eye-watering $62.6 million lossin the 2016-17 financial year.

They were told the theme parks were now trading “above break-even” and that “new attractions” and general “revitalisation” of the parks could be funded by the sale of part of the Dreamworld site at Coomera.

Mr Garfield, who ran worldwide sales and travel operations at nine Disney companies, is one of America’s most experienced tourism and entertainment executives.

Dreamworld and WhiteWater World.

After yesterday’s annual general meeting he said he did not think “Disneyland Coomera” was a likely reality.

“Disney has not ever purchased another theme park — it’s usually in the business of creating its own product,” he said.

“I think it would be highly unlikely that Disney would consider purchasing any theme park that they personally didn’t create. I can only speculate, but historically it’s never happened.”

Shareholders heard the company has progressed plans to examine a land sell-off next to its Gold Coast theme parks and will also continue to shut down an unspecified number of “underperforming” bowling businesses.

US entertainment icon and Ardent Leisure board member Randy Garfield.

Shareholders learned Ardent was insured for the tragedy that claimed four lives last year — but there were no answers on whether or not the policies would pay out.

Five of Ardent’s US businesses were battered by Hurricane Harvey in August, losses which were covered — but chairman Gary Weiss could not say the same for Dreamworld.

Australian Shareholders Association Allan Goldin said Ardent investors were nervous about the company’s ongoing uncertainty and quizzed the board about the high turnover of directors and executive staff.

“How can you talk about collegiately when you have such high-profile resignations since you came on the board?,” he said.

“If that is working together and having stability, I’d hate to think what would happen if you started to tear apart the company and rebuild it.”

Australian Shareholders Association Allan Goldin at the Ardent Leisure AGM in Sydney. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

Acting CEO Geoff Richardson, who stepped in after the resignation of Simon Kelly two weeks ago, said the parks had stopped losing money.

Dr Weiss said job cuts at theme parks — which employ close to 1000 people on the Gold Coast — were not on the agenda.

The release of the company’s half-year results in February will reveal whether the plans have started to work.


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