SkyCity begins CEO search with Michael Ahearne set to depart


SkyCity Entertainment Group is searching for a new Chief Executive Officer after current incumbent Michael Ahearne signalled an intention to depart from the post.

At the time of departure, which the casino operator’s board noted would fall at the end of March 2024, Ahearne will have completed a more than six year stint at the company. Following his departure, he will return to Europe with his family. 

Ahearne joined the company in December 2017 as Group Chief Operating Officer, before being elevated to CEO duties a little under three years later. During this time he has been tasked with navigating numerous headwinds, including property damage, COVID-19 and regulatory run-ins.

Prior to this, he enjoyed a more than 10 year stay at Star Entertainment Group, three years as COO at Aristocrat and a little under four years at Paddy Power Betfair.

A recruitment process will consider both internal and external candidates, with an update to be issued to the market once that process is complete. 

Julian Cook, SkyCity Chair, explained: “Michael has led the business through a very complex and demanding period. This has included dealing with the significant fire at the New Zealand International Convention Centre and rebuild, navigating the business through COVID-19 and the recovery, and responding to regulatory matters relating to the SkyCity Adelaide business. 

“Michael has also led significant investment and improvements in SkyCity’s compliance functions.

“Michael has worked hard to set a strong platform for the business going forward and has been tireless in seeking to do the right thing for SkyCity. 

“On behalf of myself and the SkyCity Board, I would like to thank Michael for his leadership, commitment and dedication through his time with SkyCity.”

Last month, it was revealed that SkyCity Entertainment could be on the brink of receiving a temporary suspension of its casino licence for a period “in the range of 10 days” following a customer complaint. 

The operator issued an update on the potential course of action after being informed by the Department of Internal Affairs that its Secretary, Paul James, intends to make an application regarding such a course of action to the New Zealand Gambling Commission.

Earlier in the year, South Australia’s Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, Dini Soulio, gave the go ahead to consultancy firm, Kroll Australia, to be appointed as the independent monitor of SkyCity Adelaide.

An independent review into the operations of this facility remains on hold pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings undertaken by AUSTRAC in the Federal Court.

The group has set aside a A$45m provision for a potential AUSTRAC civil penalty and associated legal costs, as well as writing down the value of its Adelaide casino licence by A$45.6m.