It's a rarefied world that ordinary Australians can only dream about, the elite existence that is Dreamworld boss Deborah Thomas's luxury lifestyle.

From the $4 million waterfront penthouse in Sydney's most elite suburb, to the A-list parties she attends, Thomas has dwelled for decades among the who's who in the worlds of high fashion, big business and media.

But when the one-time photographic model turned media maven accepted her multi-million dollar appointment as the new CEO of Dreamworld parent company Ardent Leisure Group last year, a small chink appeared in Thomas's glossy exterior.

It was March 2015 and Ardent Leisure's shareholders clearly didn't agree with the board's confidence in appointing an Australian fashion icon and A-list socialite to run the nation's largest entertainment company's $1.2 billion of assets.


The day of Thomas's announcement, the sharemarket savaged the company, plunging Ardent's share price by 30 per cent.

Thomas described the moment as "a rollercoaster day". Later on, when she was asked if she knew how to operate a rollercoaster, Ms Thomas said, "my response was that I am not here to operate the rollercoaster; I am here to make sure that people queue up and want to spend their money to take a ride on it".

Now under the spotlight in the wake of the tragedy which took the lives of four Australians, it remains to be seen whether Thomas stays or returns to the worlds of fashion and media that she knows best.

The 62-year-old has built a comfortable lifestyle and career on her days as a fashion model for the modelling agency Vivien's.

Thomas and her husband, Polish-born Vitek Czernuszyn, live with their teenage son, Oscar, in a waterfront penthouse apartment on Lady Martin's Beach in Point Piper.

The couple live just around the corner from their friends, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife, Lucy, who live in Point Piper's Wunulla Road.

They moved there after selling their $2.05 million Annandale home in 2009 to be closer to their son's Cranbrook school, the same private boys' school attended by casino mogul James Packer.

Five years earlier, Thomas and Czernuszyn, a former journalist who runs a business producing flavour-infused vodka, participated in a magazine article about women as major bread winners.

"My earnings run our life, her earnings pay off our ridiculous mortgage," Czernuszyn told Fairfax media.

Thomas added: "I'm in the top female job in magazine publishing. It's secure. We know exactly what we're getting every week."

It was James Packer's father, the media mogul Kerry Packer, who hired and promoted Thomas during her 27-year media career at ACP (now Bauer) magazines.

Thomas has been photographed at some of Sydney's premier social events over the decades she worked in the media.

Thomas worked on Cleo, Elle and Mode, as well as spending a decade as editorial executive of The Australian Women's Weekly, and at the same time was on Woollahra Council in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

In 2014 she released a book, Fashion Through the Ages, with former Vogue editor, Kirtsie Clements.

Thomas also appeared as a judge with Mark Bouris on Celebrity Apprentice.

She left Bauer publishing to take up the role as CEO of Ardent last year, and came under fire for missing seven out of ten council meetings due to her business commitments at the leisure company.

Following the share price plunge after her appointment to Ardent last year, Thomas vowed she would concentrate on increasing ticket sales.

"You're selling an experience, marketing to women, trying to get people to visit more often ... go to the park more often," the new chief executive said.

Following last week's tragedy, questions were raised as to whether it was appropriate that Thomas receive a $860,000 bonus from Ardent just two days after the deaths of Luke Dorsett, Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild and Roozi Araghi.

When she visited the scene of the accident at her company's prized theme park, Thomas wiped away tears.

Asked about whether she had contacted the families of the Thunder River Rapids tragedy, Thomas said, "I'd like to say if I hadn't handled it as well as I could, we thought we were doing the right thing.

"But if the families are watching, I have spoken to a number of them and we will, we will look after them."