Debt-laden Parq Vancouver to get new CEO

Peter Goudron set to take over from Joe Brunini in 2020

The Parq Vancouver entertainment complex cost about $630 million to build | Jeff Vinnick

What happened: Downtown Vancouver’s only casino is getting a new CEO at the beginning of 2020, with former BC Gaming Industry Association executive director Peter Goudron taking over for Joe Brunini, after his three and a half years at the helm.

Why this matters: This is set to be a new chapter for Parq Vancouver, which in the past 13 months has struggled with a public relations disaster involving rapper Drake, and had briefly struggled with paying interest payments on its roughly $580 million in debts.

A news release calls Brunini’s departure from Parq Vancouver a “resignation,” and it added that he will work closely with Goudron in the coming weeks to help ensure a seamless transition.

Brunini’s biggest accomplishment had been steering the transition of what was the Plaza of Nations-based Edgewater Casino into a new home in a nearby glitzy resort complex in September 2017.

The new venue was about a year behind schedule and roughly $95 million more than its original $535-million budget when it officially opened after a Coldplay concert at neighbouring BC Place.

The site includes a two-level, 72,000-square-foot casino with 600 slot machines and 75 game tables. It also has a 188-room Douglas Autograph Collection hotel, a 329-room JW Marriott hotel, eight eateries and a 63,000-square-foot conference centre.

It soon became apparent, however, that operations were insufficient to compensate for crushing debt.

Owner Parq Holdings LP in May restructured close to $580 million in debts related to Parq Vancouver in order to reduce interest payments, which had totalled $112.2 million per year, Business in Vancouver reported May 10.

That restructuring came after Parq twice deferred by a month its most recent interest payment – an action that prompted credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings on April 30 to downgrade Parq’s credit rating significantly, to “selective default.”

The key to the eventual debt restructuring was bringing in a new equity partner that was not named. The company that had been majority owned by PBC Group, and minority owned by Dundee Corp. (TSX:DC-A). It is not clear how big a stake in the company the new partner acquired at the time, but Dundee, in March, said that if what was then a proposed restructuring were to take place, Dundee’s stake in Parq would fall to between 22% and 25% from the current 37%.

Parq Vancouver also made headlines in November 2018, when rapper Drake claimed that casino staff had “profiled” him and refused to allow him to buy as many chips as he wanted.

A public relations disaster followed, but the casino would not provide a detailed explanation of what happened because of what it called “guest privacy.”