Star names new CEO, hopes to ‘restore confidence’ amid crisis

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Star names new CEO, hopes to ‘restore confidence’ amid crisis

By Angus Dalton

The Star Entertainment Group has announced Tyro Payments boss Robbie Cooke as its next chief executive in an appointment the group hopes will “restore confidence” in the embattled casino giant.

“Robbie is a trusted, respected and highly experienced chief executive,” Star interim chairman Ben Heap said in an announcement to the ASX. “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.”

Robbie Cooke is the new chief of  crisis-stricken casino giant The Star Entertainment Group.

Robbie Cooke is the new chief of crisis-stricken casino giant The Star Entertainment Group.Credit:James Alcock

Cooke has helmed ASX-listed fintech Tyro, which provides EFTPOS services and business lending, since March 2018 and previously ran lottery company Tatts for five years. He was the managing director of travel booking website Wotif.com from 2006 to 2013.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to re-join the gaming and hospitality industry, which is a passion of mine and where I have spent the majority of my career,” said Cooke of his appointment, which attracts an annual base salary of $1.6 million.

“There are challenges for The Star that have been well documented. They will be my priority and focus. Ensuring continuity of the business through a comprehensive renewal program is of paramount importance.”

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The Star’s previous chief executive Matt Bekier stood down in March following a public inquiry by the NSW gambling regulator that revealed failures by the group to stem criminal activity and money laundering within its casinos. Chairman John O’Neill resigned in May.

On Monday, lawyers assisting a government inquiry into the casino giant argued Star should not hold a casino licence until it had fully addressed its internal culture and reluctance to admit wrongdoing.

“To date, very little has been said about why these problems have happened, and why the misconduct occurred,” Naomi Sharp, SC, told the last day of the inquiry’s NSW hearings.

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“Very little has been said about why the culture was dysfunctional to the extent that it was and why the second line of defence under the risk management framework failed so fundamentally.”

In announcing Cooke’s appointment, Heap referenced his history of “driving transformation programs” and revamping company culture in the businesses he’s led.

Cooke replaces Matt Bekier, who resigned in March.

Cooke replaces Matt Bekier, who resigned in March. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

“He led [Tyro Payments] 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 [about] $13 billion to in excess of $30 billion over 4 years,” said Heap.

“Given The Star’s significant investments to develop world-class tourism and entertainment destinations in South East Queensland and Sydney, the company will benefit significantly from both his understanding of the industry’s regulatory environment and extensive insights and experience across the hotel and broader hospitality sector.”

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The appointment is subject to watchdog approval and Cooke’s starting date is yet to be confirmed.

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