Turf Club CEO’s shock resignation throws board into ‘chaos’ as it struggles to repay $12m in grandstand

EXCLUSIVE: Darwin Turf Club chief executive Brad Morgan has resigned after two years of turmoil at the club and, as he struggles to find a way to repay the $12million, he has been offered by the Gunner government to build the controversial grandstand.

Mr Morgan announced his resignation to club chairman Richard O’Sullivan last Friday in an email seen by the NT Independentwho some members say has thrown the club into “chaos”, and comes amid speculation he is leaving to work for former chairman Brett Dixon.

Mr Morgan describes a variety of reasons for his departure, including personal conflicts with “several board members” and a new “private sector business opportunity”, but stressed that his decision to leave was “made before the recent advice from TRNT (Thoroughbred Racing NT) that the NT government was pursuing with the recovery of the funding received for the construction of the grandstand”.

Mr Morgan added that his two years in the post had been “the most turbulent in recent DTC history”.

“I started my term in January 2020 when the turmoil started; Covid, ICAC, EPA, Liquor Commissions, SGM, Board spills, legal battles, etc, etc,” he wrote to Mr. O’Sullivan.

the NT Independent understands that negotiations have started between the NT Government, the Turf Club and TRNT around the club repaying the controversial $12 million in public funds that the Chief Minister and his cabinet approved for the grandstand which has become the subject of a major corruption investigation by the ICAC.

Following last year’s damning ICAC report, Michael Gunner said he expected the money to be returned to taxpayers, possibly through a reduction in club grants on an indefinite period, but took no responsibility for giving the money to the club based on a flawed business plan which he himself took under the arm of the Cabinet in 2019.

The club then awarded the $12 million to former chairman Brett Dixon’s firm Jaytex to build the stand, resulting in adverse findings against Mr Dixon, the board and others.

Mr Dixon, the club and former board member Damien Moriarty are currently challenging those findings in court.

In his resignation email, Mr Morgan said he had been considering moving into the private business sector for “some time” and had recently become “more attractive”.

“Being fully transparent, I have also been considering for some time a business opportunity in the private sector which has now become more attractive and gives me more autonomy to make decisions based on my own strategies,” he said. writing.

Turf Club Insiders NT Independent spoke with said they believed Mr Morgan would go to work for Mr Dixon, who announced yesterday that he and a consortium of friends would buy the Hidden Valley Tavern and spend $1.5million upgrading and renovating the pub which is just across the street. of its business park.

The consortium includes local businessmen Jeremy O’Donohue, Jamie Cooper and former Turf Club lawyer and board member Andrew Giles.

the NT Independent understands that Mr. Dixon has also purchased a restaurant in his company park.

When asked if Mr Morgan would work for him in the new venture, Mr Dixon told the NT Independent it was ‘none of your business’ and said he had not ‘poached anyone out of nowhere’, but did not specifically answer whether Mr Morgan would work for him.

Mr. Morgan also did not respond to questions.

In his Turf Club resignation email, Mr Morgan said building and opening the Silks Lounge and Grandstand during his tenure had been difficult given the challenges ‘at a time of massive staff shortages’ .

He added that he had experienced conflicts with some current board members whom he did not name, but said having opposing views with board members “would be extremely difficult” for “long-term planning”.

“Therefore, in the interests of the club, I inform you of my intention to resign as CEO of Darwin Turf Club to allow the board to move forward without the continued conflict between the board and management” , he wrote.

“Please do not interpret this decision as one of a petulant CEO not doing what he wants, I recognize that I have received the support of the majority of the board since the election of August 2021 and this decision is an accumulation of several issues that I have been grappling with for some time.

“I wish all board members the very best for the future.”

It is understood that a date for his departure has not yet been determined.

Current chairman Richard O’Sullivan did not respond to questions, including on the state of the club’s finances and whether he can afford to repay the $12 million grant.

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