×

Australian Film Veteran Graham Burke to Leave Village Roadshow as Group Claims Turnaround

Graham Burke, the Australian film industry veteran, is to step down from Village Roadshow by the end of the year. His move follows a period of feuding among the family owners, and significant corporate restructuring.

Describing the 2018-19 financial year, which runs to June, as a “reset and transition to FY20,” the group presented a financial result for the six months to December that it claimed showed recovery. Revenue from continuing operations increased by 3% from A$515 million in the equivalent half year, to $375 million (A$528 million). It incurred net losses of $250,000 (A$353,000).

Village said that it will seek a new CEO to replace Burke, and that Burke will stay with the company until the end of 2019, as a non-executive director to ensure a smooth transition. It acknowledged that Clark Kirby, chairman and CEO of Village’s theme parks business, is to be considered as an internal candidate.

Burke, now 77, joined the Roc Kirby-founded company as a ticket collector when he was just 14. “Graham is a giant of our industry and has been an integral part of Village Roadshow. Together we have seen the evolution of this company into the incredible entertainment business it its today, Graham having been part of it for 63 years,” said chairman Rob Kirby in a statement.

Rob Kirby and Burke came under fire last year from John Kirby, another family member and board director. He accused the management of running the company poorly, notably issuing inaccurate forecasts, and poor capital management.

Frustrated by a collapse of the company’s share price from a peak of A$7.92 in 2014, to as low as A$1.77 in July last year, John Kirby sought to bring in an investment bank and a proposal to break up the company. (After Friday’s twin announcements, the share price climbed 1.6% to A$3.28.)

The company has been faced with a succession of headwinds for the past two or more years. In October 2016 a fatal accident that killed four people occurred at its Dreamland theme park. Attendances dropped and the park has since been sold. But the group’s cinema operation and film distribution activities have both been hit the arrival of streaming video operations – global giant Netflix and local incumbent Stan – which have had particular success in Australia. The company results acknowledge what it calls a “Netflix effect” and says that its film acquisition strategy has been “reoriented” and will become more selective.

Though the financial statements do not make mention of the criticisms invoked by John Burke and investment adviser David Kingston, Village has taken multiple steps to strengthen its balance sheet. These include a $36 million (A$50 million) equity raising in June 2018, the sale of the Wet ‘N Wild theme park in October (which John Kirby opposed), and a $265 million (A$374 million) debt refinance program in December. (In the previous financial year, Village sold its 50% stake in leading Singapore cinema chain Golden Village for $109 million [A$154 million]).

“Theme parks are realizing the rewards of an 18-month turnaround strategy. Cinema exhibition realized its second best first half industry result. Roadshow is proactively managing the transition to a digital universe. The team is focused on delivery and will not be distracted from the task at hand,” the company said in prepared comments attributed to Burke.

“The board intends to reinstate dividends at the full year if performance continues to meet expectations,” Village said in a filing.

More Biz

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. Zaslav received [...]

  • Jonathan Lamy RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy Stepping Down From RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy, the Recording Industry Association of America’s longtime executive VP of communications and marketing, is stepping down from his post after 17 years, he announced today. As he put it in an email to Variety, “I started back in 2002, which means it’s been 17+ years, four different RIAA CEOs, three format changes and [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Disney-21st Fox Layoffs: TV Divisions Brace for Deep Cuts

    A second day of layoffs has begun on the Fox lot in the wake of Disney completing its acquisition of 21st Century Fox on Wednesday. Longtime 20th Century Fox Television Distribution president Mark Kaner is among the senior executives who were formally notified with severance details on Friday morning. 21st Century Fox’s international TV sales [...]

  • anthony pellicano

    Hollywood Fixer Anthony Pellicano Released From Federal Prison

    Anthony Pellicano, the Hollywood private eye whose wiretapping case riveted the industry a decade ago, was released from a federal prison on Friday, a prison spokeswoman confirmed. Pellicano was sentenced in 2008 to 15 years, following his conviction on 78 charges of wiretapping, racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud. He had been in custody since 2003, [...]

  • This image taken from the Twitter

    HBO’s Reaction to Trump’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Campaign

    Everyone wants a piece of the “Game of Thrones” lemon cake. From Bud Light to Red Bull the world of Westeros is open to a lot of brand partnerships, unless you’re using that iconic typeface to push a political agenda. In November of 2018 President Donald Trump unveiled a “Thrones” inspired poster with the words [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit Proves to Be a Judicial Hot Potato

    The Michael Jackson estate sued HBO last month for airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which accuses the late King of Pop of serial child sexual abuse. Since then, the case has had a difficult time finding a judge to handle it. Three federal judges have recused themselves in the last week, citing potential financial conflicts [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Guy Oseary’s New Zealand Fundraiser Nears $150,000, Continues Raising Money

    In the wake of the horrific shootings at New Zealand mosques last week that killed some 49 people, Maverick chief Guy Oseary launched a GoFundMe campaign to “support those affected by this tragedy at this very difficult time,” and began it with an $18,000 donation. Boosted by donations from many celebrities — including Amy Schumer, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content