Upon the appointment of a new CEO, Burke will remain on the VRL Board as a non-executive director, the company said today. The firm also said it will now “conduct a wide-ranging, global and domestic executive search, with an external search firm to support this process.” Clark Kirby, Chairman and CEO of VRL’s largest division, Village Roadshow Theme Parks will be an internal candidate for the role.
Local industry titan Burke, now 77, started work for Roc Kirby, Village Roadshow’s founder, at the age of 14 as a ticket collector. At age 23, he became Managing Director of Village Drive-In Limited. In 1988, Roadshow listed on the Australian securities exchange, and Graham was its inaugural CEO. The company has become one of Australia’s leading entertainment firms, operating in exhibition, distribution, production and theme parks.
But it has been a rocky recent period for the multi-faceted business. The company has lost significant market value in the past five years — a trend Burke says is partly down to the Netflix effect and piracy — and there has been boardroom disagreement over direction. In 2016, a fatal accident at an Australian theme park left four dead, an event which has been cited as having a knock-on effect on Roadshow’s theme park business.
In better news, the company reported a 31% rise in earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) to $65M for the first half of the 2019 financial year.
Executive Chairman Robert Kirby said of Burke’s departure, “Graham is a giant of our industry and has been an integral part of Village Roadshow. Together we have seen the evolution of this company into the incredible entertainment business it is today, Graham having been a part of it for 63 years. We thank him for his enduring commitment and the leadership he has shown. Graham leaves an extraordinary legacy as CEO and we look forward to his continued involvement on the Board.”
Burke commented, “It is an honor to lead Village Roadshow. I am exceptionally proud of everything that has been achieved. I am incredibly optimistic about the future of the company and look forward to serving on the Board in support of the new CEO. I want to thank the thousands of my colleagues who come to work each day with passion and dedication to creating great entertainment experiences for our customers. From humble beginnings as a small cinema circuit, we’ve contributed hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy, provided employment and careers for thousands of Australians, become a mainstay in Australia’s tourism industry and been involved in the production of some of the most iconic films of all time. Having said all of that, I firmly believe the best is yet to come.”