Crown CEO quits after scathing casino report


FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The logo of Australian casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd adorns the hotel and casino complex in Melbourne, Australia, June 13,2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

MELBOURNE: Crown Resorts Ltd chief executive officer Ken Barton stepped down, bowing to days of pressure after a scathing regulatory report found the Australian casino operator facilitated money laundering and wasn’t fit to hold a license in Sydney.

Barton will leave immediately, Melbourne-based Crown said in a statement yesterday.

Helen Coonan will lead the company as executive chairman while the board oversees a search for a new CEO.

The report last week by former judge Patricia Bergin was particularly critical of Barton, saying he didn’t have the skills for the job. His departure leaves Coonan to find a path out of a crisis that has left Australia’s largest casino company also facing regulatory pressure at its main operations in Melbourne and Perth.

“The board is determined to maintain the momentum as Crown takes significant steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture, ” Coonan said. “I will continue to lead on implementation of Crown’s ambitious reform program.”

Crown shares rose 1.1% to A$10.00 in early trading in Sydney, valuing the company at A$6.8bil (US$5.3bil).

After a year-long inquiry for the state gaming watchdog in New South Wales, Bergin recommended an overhaul of Crown before the company could start gaming operations at its new A$2.2bil Sydney casino.

The New South Wales gaming regulator, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, is due to consider the report at a board meeting tomorrow.

Barton “is no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino licensee, ” Bergin wrote. Barton clung on and as recently as Friday was still assessing his position. He became CEO of Crown in early 2020 after a decade as chief financial officer.

Both board nominees of Crown’s biggest shareholder, James Packer, left the day after the report was released. Director Andrew Demetriou also resigned last week.

Barton disclosed last year during Bergin’s investigation that Crown hadn’t yet analysed the accounts that were reportedly used by money launderers.

He was also unaware for years that a major junket operator had a cash desk at Crown’s Melbourne casino, even though the setup posed a money-laundering risk. — Bloomberg

Barton’s evidence during the inquiry “demonstrated a serious lack of judgment, ” Bergin wrote. “His problems will not be cured by the appointment of people expert in the field who report to him, ” she said.

Philip Crawford, chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, said last week there was “a certain obviousness” to the notion that Barton should step down. -- Bloomberg

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