Graeme Stephens quits as Sun International CEO
Zimbabwe-born, Graeme Stephens, 53, will be leaving the gaming, hospitality and entertainment group, Sun International, at the end of April 2017.
The resignation, which was announced late on Friday, has been met with surprise by shareholders.
Anthony Leeming, the current Chief Financial Officer, will succeeded Stephens and take over with effect from 1st of May 2017.
Stephens will join SkyCity Entertainment Group as CEO, replacing Nigel Morrison who resigned in April following an eight-year tenure. SkyCity is a casino and event centre based in New Zealand.
Shareholders queried why Stephens, who became CEO in February 2013, was stepping down amid crucial developments in the company that include the launch of Time Square near Pretoria, set to be the second-largest casino in SA, and the company’s offshore expansion into Latin America through a merger with Dreams.
But Chairman Valli Moosa said that he was very satisfied with the progress made: “We brought Graeme on to transform the company. Operationally the business has been restructured, a new management team with deep expertise has been employed, new systems and analytics have been implemented, and a new brand and loyalty program have been rolled out.
“New business lines such as the insourcing of food and beverage and the VIP gaming business are now operational and the group has acquired a controlling interest in GPI Slots. The group has essentially exited its non-core African assets and focused on those in South Africa that comprise the core of its business. The flagship Sun City resort has been redeveloped and strategies are well advanced for Sibaya, Carnival City, GrandWest and Boardwalk,” Moosa said.
Leeming has been with the group for 17 years, joining as group financial manager in 1999 and has held various group finance roles prior to his appointment as Chief Financial Officer in March 2013. In this capacity he has worked closely with the Chief Executive in helping to develop and implement the group strategy.
The Board believes that the current strategy remains relevant and the short to medium term focus is on bedding down some of the large initiatives that have been undertaken.
The appointment of the new Chief Financial Officer will be announced in due course.
Stephens, an accountant by profession, has led Sun International since 2013.
Under his leadership the company rebalanced its portfolio and diversified into growth areas in both South Africa and Latin America, including the redevelopment of flagship resort property Sun City, near Rustenburg.
The group operates in six countries and employs more than 13,000 people.
Electus Fund Managers equity analyst Damon Buss said Stephens had driven several projects that would add significant value to the group.
"We have been concerned that Sun International had taken on too much all at once. Anthony Lemming is very capable and has been very involved with all the projects Graeme has driven. Being a more conservative individual, we hope that Anthony beds down the current projects so that they start producing the strong cashflows they should and allow the business to de-gear its stretched balance sheet," said Buss.
Avior Capital Markets analyst De Wet Schutte said it was unfortunate that the initiatives the group had embarked on during Stephens’ tenure would come through only in the bottom line after his departure.