In Australia and an official examination into the casino license suitability of Crown Resorts Limited has reportedly been told that the firm has ceased sharing confidential information with its largest individual shareholder, James Packer (pictured).
According to a Wednesday report from The New Daily digital newspaper, the billionaire businessman holds a 46% stake in the operator behind the Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth properties via his Consolidated Press Holdings Proprietary Limited vehicle and last year okayed a controversial arrangement that was to have seen Hong Kong-headquartered Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited acquire a 19.9% share of this interest for approximately $1.2 billion.
However, the newspaper reported that the prospect of this deal prompted the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to launch an official inquiry into whether Crown Resorts Limited would remain suitable post-sale to hold a local casino license for its under-construction Crown Sydney facility. This $1.5 billion gambling-friendly development for the Barangaroo district of central Sydney is scheduled to open later this year and regulators are purportedly looking into allegations that Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited may have had ties to organized crime syndicates in Macau.
Jane Halton serves as a Non-Executive Director for Melbourne-headquartered Crown Resorts Limited and she reportedly told the inquiry that her firm’s former Chief Executive Officer, Ken Barton, had shared daily financial reports with Packer. The former civil servant detailed that fellow company executive Michael Johnston, who was also an executive with Consolidated Press Holdings Proprietary Limited, had moreover been granted access to privileged financial forecasts at the same time as he was busy putting together the deal with Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.
In testifying before the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority yesterday, Halton reportedly explained that both of these arrangements have now been entirely cancelled with Johnston having failed to declare a conflict of interest. She purportedly furthermore described Crown Resorts Limited’s casino operating licenses as its ‘its most precious asset’ in advance of proclaiming that she had received ‘no prior warning’ with regards to the potential sale, which has since been abandoned.
Halton reportedly told the inquiry…
“Certainly, at the forefront of my mind was the need to ensure that there was an early discussion with regulators.”
The New Daily reported that Halton is scheduled to continue giving evidence to the ongoing inquiry from later today before being followed by the casino operator’s recently-appointed Non-Executive Chairman, former Australian federal senator Helen Coonan. The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority investigation is being led by former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin and ultimately has the power to recommend that Crown Resorts Limited’s casino license for the most populous state in the nation be revoked.