Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd – currently facing an inquiry about its suitability to hold a New South Wales gaming licence – announced on Friday some changes to its board and senior management.
A notable shuffle was executive chairman John Alexander stepping down to an alternative role as an executive director.
According to his biography on the firm’s website, Mr Alexander had been executive chairman from February 2017 to this January – i.e., during the time allegations were made last summer in the Australian media that Crown Resorts’ gambling operations had been used for money laundering by criminals, and that the group was more interested in the money brought in by high-value players than how those people had acquired their cash. The company has denied any wrongdoing of its own.
Mr Alexander was deputy chairman of the group from 2007 to February 2017 – i.e., including the period in October 2016 that a number of Crown Resorts workers were detained in China and later formally arrested and accused of “gambling crimes” in relation to alleged recruitment of Chinese high-value gamblers for the firm’s Australian venues. Some of those arrested later received jail terms from a Shanghai court.
The China incident led in December 2017 to a class action being filed against Crown Resorts on behalf of investors claiming they had suffered losses due to the group’s share price having been hurt.
Rowen Craigie, who had been the Crown Resorts’ CEO and managing director during the China episode, stepped down in February 2017, after 23 years of service with the group.
Friday’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange said current board director Helen Coonan – a former senator in the Australian federal parliament – will become chairman, but on a non-executive basis.
Ms Coonan was quoted as saying in that day’s announcement, that such an approach to the chairmanship role was “in line with feedback” the company had “received from a number of proxy advisers and shareholders and better aligns with contemporary governance practices”.
John Horvath, described in the firm’s 2019 annual report – published in September – as an independent director who has led the group’s responsible gaming committee, becomes deputy chairman. He is a former chief medical officer for Australia.
Ken Barton, previously group chief financial officer, becomes the group’s chief executive, according to Friday’s filing.
Previously there was no directly-equivalent post at group level, according to the 2019 annual report. Instead, Mr Alexander – as the then executive chairman – had “assumed the responsibilities of the former chief executive officer”.
As of the 2019 report, Mr Barton was CEO for Crown Digital as well as group CFO; with Barry Felstead working as CEO Australian resorts.
Mr Alexander was quoted as saying in Friday’s regulatory filing that Mr Barton’s “long-standing role with the company and his experience as Crown’s chief financial officer will provide continuity through this transition”.
According to the 2019 annual report and company filings, James Packer, a founder of Crown Resorts and still an investor, ceased to be a director in March 2018.
Crown Resorts runs Crown Melbourne (pictured) in Victoria; Crown Perth in Western Australia; and is creating a third resort – Crown Sydney – in New South Wales.
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”“The Royal Commission finds Crown is unsuitable to hold a casino licence [in Melbourne] on the basis that it has engaged in conduct that is ‘illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative'”
Report from the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence
State of Victoria, Australia