Following months of negotiations and billionaire businessman James Packer (pictured) has reportedly agreed a deal that will allow him to retain his around 37% stake in beleaguered Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Limited.
According to a Thursday report from The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, the arrangement worked out with the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is set to permit the 53-year-old’s Consolidated Press Holdings Proprietary Limited (CPHPL) vehicle to remain as the largest individual shareholder in Crown Resorts Limited. The source explained that this comes despite accusations uncovered via a recent investigation that Packer had potentially been exercising undue influence over the day-to-day operations of the firm behind the gambling-friendly Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth properties.
In exchange for being allowed to maintain his interest in Crown Resorts Limited and the newspaper reported that Packer is to now be prohibited from exercising his vote tied to this stake except where it may concern matters relating to future takeover proposals. American hedge fund giant The Blackstone Group Incorporated has purportedly already lodged a conditional purchase offer worth in the region of $6.2 billion although the casino operator’s board has yet to give the suitor official permission to conduct any form of due diligence.
The newspaper reported that the arrangement has been worked out after a special inquiry conducted by former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin determined that the Melbourne-headquartered casino firm was unfit to hold a gambling license for its new Crown Sydney development. This damning verdict led to a host of resignations at Crown Resorts Limited including those from non-executive directors Guy Jalland, John Poynton and Michael Johnston, who had purportedly been sympathetic towards CPHPL.
However, the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority reportedly later revealed that the casino operator would potentially be able to reverse the decision concerning the $1.5 billion Sydney property if it agreed to implement a number of reforms including changes to its senior management and improvements to its anti-money laundering procedures. The official Bergin probe had at one point even purportedly recommended barring Packer or any of his entities from holding any more than a 9.99% stake in Crown Resorts Limited, which could have proved costly given the depressed nature of the firm’s current share price.
In its detailing of the matter and The Guardian newspaper reportedly explained that the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority yesterday disclosed that Packer through his CPHPL enterprise has now consented to ‘a number of undertakings regarding Crown Resorts Limited and its associates’. The regulator purportedly proclaimed that these additionally included an assurance that the investor would cancel any information-sharing agreements it may hold with the casino firm, not seek to materially amend its constitution, refrain from speaking with its senior management ‘other than through public forums’ and avoid making board nominations until at least October of 2024.