Fast-growing fun-and-food concept loses CEO

Charlie Keegan

The longtime leader of the rapidly expanding Main Event games and food chain has resigned effective Nov. 24, raising questions about the operation’s near-term strategy.

No reason was given for Charlie Keegan’s planned exit from the 38-unit chain, which he’s helmed for 11 years. During that time, the concept was revamped to facilitate rapid expansion. It consisted of six units at the time Keegan took the top job.

Main Event is owned by Australian-based Ardent Leisure, a public company that’s drawn fire from one of its major shareholders, an investment firm called Ariadne, in part because of the pace of Main Event’s growth. The chain’s revenues grew during its last fiscal year by  30%, yet earnings rose only 5.6%.

Much of Ardent’s capital has been earmarked for Main Event’s continued U.S. expansion. Five of the expansive facilities are targeted for development in 2018.

After questioning Ardent’s plan, Ariadne was awarded two board seats.

Main Event offers games such as bowling as well as food and adult beverages. A leader in the fun-and-food segment, Dave & Buster’s, acknowledged recently that it’s feeling the competition from Main Event, which opened five stores in its markets.

“What would be nice is Main Event slowing down their pace to growth,” Dave & Buster’s CEO Steve King told financial analysts. “That would be a pleasant surprise.”

Keegan, a proponent of the rapid expansion, indicated that he would continue to serve as an advisor to Main Event for a year after he vacates the CEO’s job.

He did not say what he intends to do after stepping down as CEO. Ardent will convene its annual shareholders meeting a few days before Keegan's final day. 

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