The Star Entertainment Group
Image: Michael Colston/Shutterstock

According to an independent inquiry, Star Entertainment was eyeing a significant battle with the NSW state regulator. 

One of the key motives for the group’s Chairman David Foster and CEO Robbie Cooke, who at the time was Managing Director, was to force the departure of the company’s special manager. 

Revealed in a court case in Sydney, it was detailed that the duo had sought to secure legal backing in order to take action against Nicholas Weeks, who was leading the oversight of inspection into the company and whether it was sustainable. 

Messages from Cooke revealed in court stated that he believed the regulator was ‘preparing for war, so we should do the same’. 

Weeks issued his response to the plans, describing them as ‘extraordinary’. Speaking during the enquiry, he said: “It’s difficult to reconcile everything that the company has told me and everything it tells the market and the regulator in relation to its motivations to reform.

“I find it extraordinary that the chairman of a listed company and a CEO were exchanging messages and contemplating a class action from shareholders against me personally and the NICC in circumstances where their public position is that they’re working cooperatively.”

According to Weeks the allegations underline significant cultural issues at the company, which present a real challenge in progress for the operator moving forward as it falls short of meeting expectations. 

 “I was concerned about the cultural issues. Also, I was concerned about the control environment because balancing the books and counting money was one of those things that I anticipated the casino would be very good at.

“There was an absence of people speaking up and saying ‘we’ve got a problem here’ and escalating issues. Until the new leadership takes hold and really sets a different expectation and standards among team members, these types of incidents may continue to occur.”

Cooke confirmed his departure from Star Entertainment, while his replacement, at least on a temporary basis, was confirmed as Foster. 

Cooke stated after confirming his departure: “Whilst I find the position exceptionally disappointing, I have reached the conclusion that my continuation in the group CEO role is not going to be conducive to the NICC determining to find The Star capable of becoming suitable to hold a casino licence in NSW.

“In these circumstances a change in leadership provides the best opportunity for the business to navigate the regulatory pressure it is facing. I take comfort in what we have achieved as a team over the last 16 months, and I’m certain the company is now on the right path.”