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Big moves for The Star, SkyCity, Qantas and GPJ

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Big moves for The Star, SkyCity, Qantas and GPJ
There have been several major appointments and one resignation across businesses who work in and with the events industry.

GPJ Australia and New Zealand brings in new talent

The Australia and New Zealand arm of multinational experience agency George P. Johnson (GPJ) has appointed Darren O’Meara as growth and development director.

O’Meara joins GPJ having worked with a variety of brand, advertising and customer experience agencies including Merkle, Joie Brands, The Big Idea Advertising and Ogilvy. He has worked across experience marketing, data, analytics, creative and media.

“Darren’s deep understanding of the industry, combined with his innovative thinking, aligns seamlessly with our agency’s mission to deliver truly valuable experiences that transcend beyond a moment in time,” said GPJ ANZ’s managing director Chrissie Mills.

O’Meara said he was “genuinely excited about GPJ’s track record”.

“They have all the ingredients to help brands dream, design, and create the extraordinary,” he said.

“It’s a privilege to be part of this organisation that has the talent, ambition, and structure to deliver world-class experiences.

Qantas appoints first dedicated chief people officer

Australia’s national airline Qantas has found its first dedicated chief people officer, selecting Catherine Walsh for the job. Currently the head of people and culture at PwC, Walsh has also had senior human resources roles at Spotless and Australia Post.

According to the airline’s statement announcing her appointment, Walsh “will help drive a stronger relationship between Qantas and its 25,000 employees, as well as with the unions that represent them”. Her appointment comes soon after Qantas lost its final challenge to an industrial relations court ruling that put the airline up against around 1,700 of its ground staff. Qantas was found to have illegally outsourced their roles during the pandemic.

“Several months ago, we announced the Chief People Officer role to make sure the voice of our people is front and centre on the leadership team and I’m thrilled Catherine will be bringing her skills and experience to this important task,” said new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson.

“Ultimately, building a stronger culture and better relationships with our people is one of my highest priorities and a shared responsibility across management.”

For her part, Walsh said it was “an honour to be joining the Qantas Group in such an important role and at a pivotal time”.

The Star appoints CEO for its Gold Coast property

In a new strategic move, casino and integrated resort operator The Star Entertainment Group has decided to appoint heads for each of its properties in Brisbane, Sydney and on the Gold Coast.

The first CEO of The Star Gold Coast will be Jessica Mellor, who is already chief operating officer for the property.

Mellor joined The Star in 2019, being the youngest and first female COO for The Star Gold Coast. Prior to this, she was the first female CEO of Aquis Entertainment, which owns Casino Canberra.

“When I joined The Star in 2019, I was so grateful to be in a position to take on an amazing opportunity whilst also returning to my hometown,” said Mellor.

“This new role takes it to another level. For me the focus has always been on delivering amazing experiences for our guests and being part of the fabric of the Gold Coast community.”

As The Star Entertainment Group looks to appoint CEOs in Brisbane and Sydney, the company’s CEO Robbie Cooke explained the rationale behind the change in leadership structure.

“The organisational changes being implemented are designed to simplify our structure and provide clearer operational accountability at each of our Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sydney properties,” he said.

“The new structure will provide greater responsibility and decision-making power at a property level while maintaining appropriate oversight from the Group level.”

The move comes following damning independent reviews in both New South Wales and Queensland which found The Star unfit to hold a gaming licence. The group has been hit with major fines in both states. The financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC has also brought proceedings against the business in federal court for failings in its counter financial terrorism and anti-money laundering processes.

SkyCity CEO quits

Michael Ahearne has resigned from his role at the helm of the SkyCity Entertainment Group – New Zealand’s major casino operator – after less than three years as CEO.

Joining SkyCity in December 2017 as the COO for the group, Ahearne became CEO in November 2020 and will step down in March 2024.

SkyCity has – and is – facing its share of challenges. A major fire at the under-construction New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC), owned by SkyCity, in 2019, combined with the pandemic, has delayed the opening of the major business events venue by around five years. SkyCity’s only Australian property, SkyCity Adelaide is also awaiting the results of an independent review into its suitability to hold a gaming licence and is facing similar court action from AUSTRAC as The Star.

The group was also recently informed of an application to close down its operations for a period “in the range of 10 days” in response to a potential breach of its responsible gambling responsibilities.

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