Tension rising in Tabcorp boardroom

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Tabcorp takeover preferred to demerger

Gambling giant Tabcorp has injected more new blood into its boardroom, amid investor discontent over some existing directors’ length of tenure and below-market returns.

WA Today reports that the $9.5 billion company said professional director Anne Brennan would join its board as a non-executive director, which follows the October appointment of outgoing Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop.

Tabcorp operate lotteries and the TAB wagering outfit and has been bit with protest votes at its last two annual general meetings.

At its October meeting this year, 34.6 per cent of votes went against the re-election of chairwoman Paula Dwyer, who has been on the board since 2005, with proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services recommending against her re-election because of her long tenure.

Ms Dwyer said she will step down as chairwoman no later than the Tabcorp annual general meeting in 2021.

The bookie received a first “strike” – or a vote of 25 per cent or more against its executive pay packets – in 2018, but avoided a second at this year’s annual general meeting.

In additional to her role on the board of Tabcorp, Ms Brennan currently sits on the board of agricultural chemical marker Nufarm limited and property group Charter Hall, and has previously been a director at casino operator Echo Entertainment, now Star Entertainment, and struggling retailers Metcash and Myer.

Ms Dwyer said in a statement that Ms Brennan has broad industry experience, including in gambling and would bring “strong commercial judgment and extensive professional experience in audit, corporate finance and transaction services” to the board.

Tabcorp’s total shareholder returns have underperformed the ASX200 by 8.5 per cent during the past year and 23 per cent in the past two years, but the group has promised up to $145 million in benefits from its 2017 merger with Tatts Group, by 2021.

Greens want to end Trackside TAB product

The Australian Greens’spokesperson for Gambling and Mental Health, the Hon Alison Xamon has put forward amendments to the TAB Bill 2019 that, if adopted, will remove the electronic gambling platform Trackside from the sale of the TAB.

The Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Upper House this week after having been passed by the Lower House in June, The National Tribune reports.

“Let’s be clear – despite what the Government says – Trackside and poker machines are for all intents and purposes the same thing: they are both forms of electronic gambling, and they are programmed to be addictive and to derive maximum profits for the owners.

“Western Australians are justifiably proud of the fact that WA has been the only State not to have pokies except for in the Casino.

“We know that any short term financial gain from including Trackside in the sale will be offset many times over by the social harms it will bring,” Ms Xamon cautioned.

“I urge my fellow parliamentarians to heed the warnings of public health experts and the community sector.

“It is outrageous that the Government has proceeded this far in the face of such widespread evidence based opposition. If electronic gambling forms part of the sale of the TAB there will be no going back.

“If Labor, the Liberals, the Nationals and the cross-bench are serious about promoting the well-being of West Australians they should support my amendments when the Bill is debated in Parliament this week,” she said.

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