After John O'Neill's resignation

The Star chooses Queensland casino chief Geoff Hogg as new acting CEO, Ben Heap as interim chairman

The Star executive Geoff Hogg.
2022-05-23
Australia
Reading time 1:53 min

After the departure of The Star Entertainment’s outgoing executive chairman, John O’Neill, Queensland casino boss Geoff Hogg will become the acting CEO of the Group, while non-executive director Ben Heap will be taking on the role of interim chairman that O’Neill also left.

Hogg has been running the company’s Queensland casinos for two years now, and is the current chief casino officer for the company’s QLD operations, comprising casinos and hotels on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane, where the company is also building the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf development. Hogg’s remit was also recently expanded to NSW operations following the announced resignation of his former Sydney counterpart, Greg Hawkins, Business News Australia reports.

Both Hogg and Heap will commence in their new roles on June 1, 2022, subject to any regulatory approvals. The news comes as the company faces an ongoing inquiry into its operations at its Star Syndey venue. The new interim chairman faced the review earlier this month, at the time denying the company’s board misled shareholders in an ASX statement issued last year following media reports that the casino giant was enabling suspected money laundering. 

A resumption of the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) review into The Star’s sustainability to hold a casino license in Sydney is now in place, which has so far uncovered revelations related to illegal money-laundering activities carried out over many years.

Former executive chairman John O’Neill is scheduled to testify before the review this week. He had held that post since 2012 and took on the executive chairman role in April. His resignation, announced Friday, is not the first to occur within the company amid the ongoing inquiry. 

Since The Star saw itself involved in the investigation in March, executives such as former chief executive Matt Bekier, chief financial officer Harry Theodore and others have stepped down from their jobs. Director Gerard Bradley and Sally Pitkin have also committed to leaving the board in the coming months. 

The NSW inquiry has heard The Star set up a secret gambling room for criminal gang-linked junket operator Suncity; hid its illegal cash cage from NSW casino regulator; misled the big banks, and might have failed to pay taxes. 

It has also examined how the Star ignored the criminal links and likely money laundering activities of its major junket high-roller tour partners and other customers, and its abuse of Chinese bank cards to facilitate $900 million of banned gambling transactions, which then lied to the National Australia Bank about.

O’Neill is due to appear before the inquiry on Monday after his evidence was delayed from starting this week. He is expected to be questioned on his knowledge of Star’s controversial China UnionPay scheme, its dealings with Suncity and his reaction to KPMG telling Star in 2018 that it may not be complying with anti-money laundering laws.

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