New CEO and boardroom reshuffle at Village Roadshow

Clark Kirby.

Clark Kirby has been named as the new CEO of Village Roadshow Ltd, while his father Robert Kirby has agreed to step down as executive chairman but will remain on the board.

The corporate and management restructure, which takes effect on January 1, 2020, follows a year-long campaign by deputy chairman John Kirby, Robert’s brother.

In February CEO Graham Burke announced he would step down at the end of the year after 63 years with the company, but remain as a director.

At that time the board revealed Clark Kirby, the exec chairman/CEO of its theme parks group, VRL’s biggest division, was a candidate for the position but said it would hire an executive search firm.

John Kirby had been agitating for Burke’s removal as CEO, the appointment of an independent chairman and a sell-off of VRL’s film production arm and other assets including its US cinemas after a lacklustre financial performance.

It’s a partial victory for John as the board announced yesterday the role of deputy chair has been abolished, although he remains as a director.

The board is hiring an executive search firm as it looks to appoint an independent non-executive chair. Robert will stay on the board as an executive director.

Clark, who joined VRL as director of strategy in 2009, will combine the CEO role with oversight of the theme parks.

Investment banker David Kingston, who has been advising John, told the Australian Financial Review: “John has been calling for an independent chair for the last year, and he’s pleased that Robert is finally stepping down.

“However, he is somewhat perplexed that the board agreed independent global recruitment for a CEO has for some reason been abandoned.”

At a briefing for investors on the Gold Coast last week, the company revealed Roadshow Films’ pre-tax earnings in the financial year ending June 30 would be down on the prior fiscal year due to losses on key titles.

Trading at the cinema circuit in January-March was very soft, offset by Avengers: Endgame, but the 2019 financial year box office was expected to be broadly in line with the previous year.

Small growth in the Australian BO is expected in the next financial year. Just over half of all ticket sales are at the $15 price for members of the Rewards loyalty program.