The Australian operator of Southeast Asian casinos Donaco International Ltd announced on Tuesday the appointment of Paul Arbuckle as company chief executive. The appointment is effective from Wednesday (June 12).
Mr Arbuckle “has more than 30 years’ experience in casino and gaming businesses in Australia and Asia,” the firm stated in a filing announcing his appointment.
The firm also confirmed in a separate filing on Tuesday that it had scheduled for July 18 an extraordinary general meeting of its shareholders to consider resolutions to remove directors Joey Lim Keong Yew and Ben Lim Keong Hoe from the board. The meeting has been called for by shareholders that hold a combined stake of 5.04 percent of Donaco’s shares.
Mr Joey Lim was formerly a managing director and chief executive of Donaco. He was the chief executive and managing director of the company until March 19 when his employment was terminated “with immediate effect”. During his absence, Mr Ben Lim stepped in as acting CEO. The brothers are scions of the family that founded Malaysia’s casino conglomerate Genting.
In Tuesday’s filing announcing the appointment of Mr Arbuckle as company CEO, Donaco stated that, “as part of the leadership transition, Mr Ben Lim’s role as interim CEO and managing director has now concluded.”
It added: “The former chief operating officer, Gerald Tan, has also left the business.”
Donaco controls gaming facilities in Cambodia and Vietnam, namely in border towns adjacent to Thailand and mainland China, countries where casinos are illegal. The company has been engaged in a dispute with several Thai businessmen that formerly owned the Star Vegas Resort (pictured in a file photo) in Cambodia that specialises in serving customers from across the border.
New leadership for ‘fresh start’
In his role as CEO, Mr Arbuckle will be “based primarily at the Star Vegas casino hotel in Poipet, Cambodia, and will also regularly work from the Aristo International Hotel in Lao Cai, Vietnam”, Donaco’s Tuesday filing stated. He will be entitled to a fixed annual salary of AUD400,000 (US$279,000), plus annual incentives in cash and equity of up to AUD400,000, subject to the company achieving key performance indicators, according to the filing.
The document added that in his most recent role, Mr Arbuckle was chief operating officer at the Star Gold Coast casino property, owned by Star Entertainment Group Ltd and located in Queensland, Australia.
His other experience in the gaming industry includes leadership roles at the Resorts World Sentosa casino resort in Singapore and at Australian-based gaming operator Tabcorp Holdings Ltd.
“Paul’s experience and expertise in gaming operations is critical to improving the performance of our casino operations in Cambodia and Vietnam,” Donaco chairman Stuart McGregor said in prepared statements included in the filing.
He added: “While these businesses continue to be profitable, the board has considered for some time that they are not reaching their full potential. Accordingly, Paul’s appointment is a crucial step in the board’s plan to provide a fresh start, revitalise our businesses, and restore value for shareholders.”
The filing also quoted Mr Arbuckle as saying: “The company has two very valuable and profitable casino assets… With my substantial experience in Asia, I can see the potential for these businesses in serving customer demand from Thailand, China and beyond.”
Donaco reported a loss after tax of AUD124.5 million for the financial year ended June 30, 2018 which took into account a non-cash impairment charge of AUD143.9 million in the value of the licence at the Star Vegas – a consequence of the ongoing dispute. In late February, the firm said it had narrowed its loss for the six months to December 31, 2018.
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"With the mainlanders and Hong Kongers now effectively barred from entering Macau, the only rationale possible for keeping the casinos in Macau open right now is a social one which is to keep Macau residents employed"
Managing partner of IGamiX Management and Consulting Ltd