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Star finds a battle-hardened boss to lead it through 'transformation'


The embattled Star Group has found a new $1.6 million boss as the company heads towards an inquiry into its casino operations in Queensland.

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Former Wotif, Tyro Payments and Tatts Group chief executive Robbie Cooke was announced today as managing director and chief executive.

It follows the resignations of chairman John O’Neill and chief executive Matt Bekier who quit following the exposure of allegations of criminal conduct, including money laundering, at its Sydney casino. Several other senior executives and directors such as former Queensland bureaucrat Gerald Bradley have also resigned.

Interim chairman Ben Heap said the board considered Cooke, who also once worked for the Brisbane-based gambling company Unitab and was a University of Queensland graduate, to be a standout candidate for the job.

“He has been the chief executive of major ASX 200 listed companies and brings extensive commercial experience in operating and driving transformation programs within highly regulated environments, overseeing large workforces and building executive teams in multi-jurisdictional locations,” Heap said.

Cooke will earn a salary of $1.6 million-plus short and long-term incentives and a sign-on grant of performance share rights to the value of $1.6 million.

Cooke said the challenges facing Star were well documented.

“They will be my priority and focus,” he said.

“Ensuring continuity of the business through a comprehensive renewal program is of paramount importance.”

The Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has previously announced an independent review of Star’s Gold Coast and Brisbane casinos. The terms of reference have yet to be announced but the Government has also flagged new penalties of up to $50 million for serious breaches of casino laws.

Star is developing a $3.5 billion casino and resort development in the Brisbane CBD that has received strong support from the State Government.

Cooke’s was considered a standout for several reasons but included in that was his experience in leading fin tech company Tyro Payments through the financial services Royal Commission.

“Given Star’s significant investments to develop world-class tourism and entertainment destinations in south east Queensland and Sydney, the company will benefit significantly from his understanding of the industry’s regulatory environment and extensive insights and experience across the broader hospitality sector,” Heap said.

Cooke’s appointment still needs approval from state regulators.

Cooke has given six months’ notice at Tyro.


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