Archive for Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Kory: Oz to keep battling

November 22, 2000

Robert Kory said planned organizational changes within Oz Entertainment Co. will allow him to do what he does best.

It was reported last week that Kory would step aside as Oz's chief executive officer. Kory will remain Oz chairman.

An interim CEO will be named next week, Kory said. That person will be responsible for the company's day-to-day operations.

"That will allow me to work on strategic initiatives, which is where my value is," he said. "My value is not dealing with water rights, although I've learned a lot about them.

"We have one horizon the tie vote on the (Johnson) county commission. The interim CEO will help me and the whole Oz team through that process."

Two weeks ago, the county commission failed to approve Oz's $861 million redevelopment plant for the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. Oz proposed building a destination theme park and resort on 1,700 acres of the plant's northeast corner.

The 2-2 vote tabled the proposal. According to county legal counselor Don Jarrett, Oz has three options if it wants to pursue its proposed Sunflower development. It can bring the same proposal back before the commission, introduce a new proposal or bypass the county and seek changes in the state legislation that governs Sunflower's redevelopment.

"Our focus is on the county commission," Kory said. "Our local supporters have urged us to stick with the plan we have for Sunflower, because business and civic leaders see the benefits."

Oz is now seeking local advice on how it can successfully win county approval, Kory said.

The organizational change was part of his company's natural progression, Kory said, and he bristled at suggestions it was being made because of any perceived lack of integrity on his part.

"Two commissioners (George Gross and Doug Wood) expressed a high degree of confidence in me and the plan," he said. "One (Johnna Lingle) felt she had been mistreated. One (Annabeth Surbaugh), had a big concern about what might come next. "Surbaugh specifically told me she didn't question my integrity."

Talk of integrity overlooks what the company accomplished in negotiating Sunflower's transfer with federal, state and local agencies, Kory said. Over a two-year period, Oz negotiated a transfer agreement that was the first of its kind under a federal statute that had never been used before, he said.

The agreement makes 2,828 acres of land available for parks and other public benefit transfers, he said. It assures Sunflower's environmental cleanup with $300 million in third-party financial guarantees.

Oz also produced a master plan for Sunflower's development that conformed the county's land-use plan, he said.

Gross and Wood are aware of the Oz proposal's benefits, Kory said.

"In think even Commissioner Surbaugh sees quite a few positives," he said. "We're seeing what the community has to say, before we announce our next step."

In an expression of optimism, Kory said one of the interim CEO's task will be to find a replacement. That individual will be someone experienced in theme park operations, Kory said.

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