CEO, Two Other Top Execs, Depart SkyCity

Graeme Stephens (l.) is leaving the top job at the New Zealand-based gaming operator the end of this month. CFO Rob Hamilton and CMO Liza McNally also have quit and are scheduled to exit early next year. SkyCity gave no reasons for the departures.

CEO, Two Other Top Execs, Depart SkyCity

CEO Graeme Stephens and two other senior executives are leaving SkyCity Entertainment Group.

Analysts expressed surprise at Stephens’ departure, which came with no advance notice from the New Zealand-based gaming operator.

It was announced simultaneously with the planned resignations of CFO Rob Hamilton and Chief Marketing Officer Liza McNally and appears to point to a major shift in SkyCity’s strategic direction going forward.

“It is obviously pretty significant changes in the management of the company,” said Grant Williamson, a director with New Zealand brokerage Hamilton Hindin Greene.

Stephens’ resignation is effective November 30, according to a filing with the New Zealand Stock Exchange, which gave no reason for his departure.

His successor will be COO Michael Ahearne, a 13-year industry veteran who reportedly oversees SkyCity’s operations across New Zealand and Australia and is credited with guiding the launch of an online gaming division in 2019.

Hamilton is scheduled to depart the end of February and McNally in March.

“It is probably a little bit unusual to see so many changes all relatively close together,” said Williamson.

He added, however, that without more information it was difficult to know what was behind them.

SkyCity has a number of large-scale capital projects in the works, highlighted by its NZ$700 million New Zealand International Convention Centre, which has been years in the making and is slated to debut in 2021 with a supporting hotel in the company’s home city of Auckland.

An A$330 million, 120-room luxury hotel at SkyCity Adelaide in South Australia was supposed to open this month, but that’s been put on hold after the state government recently closed all non-essential businesses in response to a surge of Covid-19 infections in other locations around the city.

It’s the casino’s second pandemic-related shutdown this year.

The company’s flagship SkyCity Auckland and its three other casinos in New Zealand reopened in May after a two-month shutdown.