Shareholder Wilson Asset Management is “disappointed” with the way Ardent Leisure has run the company, but hasn’t yet formed a view on whether it will support a bid by activist shareholder Ariadne to get four new directors on the board of the troubled company.
The Ardent board led by George Venardos is fighting to keep control of the company that owns Dreamworld theme park and the Main Event Entertainment business in the US in the face of Ariadne’s plan outlined this week to save the company $1 billion over three years.
The matter will come to a head on September 4, when shareholders will vote on Ariadne’s proposal. But while shareholders may not be happy with Ardent, it doesn’t necessarily mean Ariadne has the answers. Ausbil Investment Management last month criticised Ariadne for trying to take control of Ardent without paying a premium.
“We have been very disappointed with the management of the company over the last 12 to 18 months and their communication,” Wilson Asset Management chief investment officer Chris Stott told The Australian Financial Review.
While Wilson had not made any firm decision yet about whether it would support Ariadne, Mr Stott said Ardent’s strategy had been confusing and it was not happy with the mixed messages from its executives around possible land sales.
On Wednesday, Ardent said Ariadne’s plan for the company largely copied initiatives Ardent itself had already announced, that a review of Main Event was nearly complete and that the historic pace of rollout of new Main Event venues – eight a year – was the same as Ariadne had proposed.
“A minority shareholder is trying to exert undue influence with less than 10 per cent,” an Ardent spokesman said. “It’s up to security holders to judge whether that is in the best interests of the company. The board doesn’t think it is.”
Ariadne chairman Gary Weiss said the choice for shareholders boiled down to which leadership they believed was better to execute a turnaround plan.
“We do not believe people who have presided over such a substantial decline in value can miraculously transform themselves into wealth creators of the future,” Dr Weiss told the Financial Review.
Ardent shares were trading 1¢ lower at $2.13.