Text Messages Unveil Star’s Plot against NSW Regulator

For the last few years, Star Entertainment Group, the leading gaming and entertainment company in Australia, has been at the center of a massive scandal related to regulatory failings. Inquiries into the company’s operations found it unsuitable to hold a casino license in Queensland as well as New South Wales (NSW).

Regulatory action was taken against the Star that saw the appointment of a special manager in the face of Nicholas Weeks. He was tasked with managing the company’s Treasury Brisbane and The Star Gold Coast operations. Moreover, Weeks was appointed as manager and tasked with overseeing The Star Sydney.

Although he described his collaboration with the management and the company as “productive,” newly released data claims the Star management conspired to remove the Weeks and “go to war” with the NSW gambling regulator. On Monday, Counsel Assisting Caspar Conde made a surprising public hearing opening by presenting communication between Star’s former CEO Robbie Cooke and the company’s chairman, David Foster, as announced by IAG. The communication allegedly contained messages between Cooke and Foster who discussed the possibility of removing Weeks, the very man that was appointed to help ensure the Star meets its license obligations.

The Star, Getting “Ready for War”

Early in February, a meeting with the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) was planned. Ahead of the meeting, Foster and Cooke sent a series of messages. In one of the messages, Foster wrote: “another angle is establishing grounds if possible, for a class action from shareholders against Nick Weeks or NICC.” Cooke’s response was: “We’ll run that by (law firm) KWM on Monday.”

In another message, Foster wrote to Cooke: “They are prepping for war, we’d better do the same, should we talk to KWN?” The then-CEO responded: “We are meeting Monday to get ready for war.”

Back in March, Christina Katsibouba, the Star’s chief financial officer (CFO), announced her immediate departure from the company. Along with her, Cooke confirmed his plans to step down from his CEO role. At the time, Star confirmed that Cooke’s responsibilities were temporarily assigned to Foster.

The Special Manager Is Disappointed and Surprised

Weeks showed that he was surprised and disappointed with the recently released data, claiming The Star was getting “ready for war.” Moreover, he said: “It’s difficult to reconcile everything that the company has told me, everything it tells the market and everything it tells the regulator in relation to its motivations to reform and to work cooperatively with the regulator.”

The special manager explained that this was an unexpected turn of events, considering his communication with The Star’s Board. Weeks outlined that the uncovered text messages are surprising, especially in light of his role in helping guide the company to license suitability. Additionally, he said that his role with The Star is to help regain the confidence and trust in the company for the regulators. Weeks also suspected that Foster and Cooke somehow were able to gain access to his diary entries. Finally, he said that such actions are extraordinary.