SkyCity shakedown: Executives Graeme Stephens, Rob Hamilton and Liza McNally step down

Michael Ahearne, currently SkyCity's chief operating officer, will take over as CEO from November 16.  He replaces current CEO Graeme Stephens.
Michael Ahearne, currently SkyCity's chief operating officer, will take over as CEO from November 16. He replaces current CEO Graeme Stephens. Photo credit: LinkedIn/File.

In an unexpected shakedown at SkyCity, three top executives are officially stepping down. 

In a statement released on Monday, SkyCity confirmed that company CEO Graeme Stephens will leave the business at the end of November. Chief operating officer Michael Ahearne will take over the role from November 16. 

The company's chief financial officer, Rob Hamilton and chief marketing officer Liza McNally, have also resigned. They will depart in the first quarter of 2021.

Currently SkyCity's chief operating officer, Ahearne has overseen the company's operations across New Zealand and Australia since December 2017. He took on SkyCity's online gaming strategy, launching SkyCity's online casino in August 2019. 

Ahearne has significant experience in the sports betting and gaming industry. This includes commercial and operational roles at Paddy Power and Betfair (now Flutter Entertainment) and senior management roles at The Star Casino in Sydney. He was also chief operating officer at Aristocrat, overseeing New Zealand and Australia.

He's a qualified accountant and holds an MBA from the University of Technology, Sydney.

Having joined SkyCity in October 2014, Hamilton will leave at the end of February 2021 to "pursue new opportunities."  McNally's decision is due to relocation to Adelaide. She will leave the business at the end of March, marking just over three years' with SkyCity.

Eighty Recruitment managing director Mark Fisher, said although news of three executives leaving at once is unusual, 2020 has been a year of change.  

"Without knowing first-hand what happened internally, I can only assume either the three people didn't envisage themselves in the business to deliver that change, or potentially their skillsets didn't meet expectations of the Board to realise their agreed strategy," Fisher said.

Many businesses are now reinventing their strategies as a result of COVID-19. That's likely to bring significant change.

"If businesses don't adapt they could lose much more than just market share. 

"I expect to see a lot more surprises of a similar nature over the next six to 12 months as businesses grapple with a new norm that is dramatically different to what we knew before," Fisher added.

Acknowledging Stephens' contribution to SkyCity over three-and-a-half years as CEO, SkyCity chairman Rob Campbell said he'd played a pivotal role steering the company through last year's fire, caused by accidental exposure to a gas torch, and COVID-19.

Fletcher Construction expected the Horizon Hotel and NZ International Convention Centre projects to be completed by late-2021 and mid-2023 respectively. There was no change to estimated reinstatement costs of at least $336 million. These would be covered by insurance, SkyCity said. 

An All Blacks experience and Weta Workshop were expected to open some time in December. 

SkyCity also confirmed it was on-track to resume paying dividends from the end of the 2021 financial year.