Australian casino operator, Crown Resorts Limited, reportedly held its annual shareholders’ meeting last week and narrowly avoided having its remuneration report voted down as investors questioned senior executives about a wave of recent scandals.
According to a Thursday report from The Guardian newspaper, the Melbourne-headquartered firm is responsible for the Crown Perth venue in Western Australia as well as Victoria’s giant Crown Melbourne and is hoping to begin welcoming gamblers to its new Crown Sydney facility in 2021.
The Guardian reported that the meeting saw about 17.7% of investors vote against the operator’s annual remuneration report although this statement was ultimately saved via support from Australian billionaire James Packer, who owns approximately 37% of Crown Resorts Limited. Local law purportedly dictates that companies must change their entire board if shareholders twice turn down a remuneration report by votes of at least 25%.
The newspaper reported that shareholders in Crown Resorts also used the gathering to question the firm’s board about allegations of fast-tracked visas for foreign high-rollers as well as claims that organized crime syndicates had been involved in organizing junkets for its VIP players. Investors moreover purportedly interrogated the company’s senior leadership about the proposed deal that could see Packer sell an almost 20% stake in the casino giant to Asian counterpart Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.
Hong Kong-based Melco Resorts and Entertainment is controlled by Lawrence Ho Yau Lung while the purchase agreement has been put on hold while authorities in New South Wales investigate several issues including whether the company is too close to the billionaire’s father, Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung Sun. The elder Ho has been prohibited from investing in the $771 million Crown Sydney project over allegations, which he has continually denied, of links with organized crime groups.
John Alexander, Chairman for Crown, was reportedly a specific target for the disgruntled investors after he declared that the firm’s high-roller revenues had dropped by some 46% in the three months to the end of June due to ‘difficult trading conditions in the international VIP market’. He moreover purportedly stated that this decrease had been a significant factor in the firm’s annual profit tumbling by almost 30% to approximately $275.7 million.
Alexander additionally reportedly told investors that Crown Resorts Ltd had settled a tax bill claim worth almost $400 million relating to its failed attempt to purchase American counterpart Cannery almost a decade ago and criticized multiple domestic television and newspaper outlets for ‘a number of sensationalist and unproven claims’ that had often ‘focused on allegations from over five years ago.’