Crown Resorts boss quits amid money laundering scandal
- Barton’s exit follows other key directors out of the door
- Crown Resorts unable to operate its new casino in Sydney
- Helen Coonan named executive chairman
- James Packer’s majority shareholding in doubt
Australian casino giant Crown Resorts’ chief executive has resigned over the scandal of alleged money laundering activities at its casinos.
The bombshell inquiry in New South Wales raises doubts over the group’s future and also poses questions over whether gaming regulators in Victoria and Western Australia had failed to spot alleged wrongdoings.
With Crown Resorts, which is majority-owned by billionaire James Packer, unable to operate its newly built casino in Sydney, chief executive Ken Barton quit, alongside several key directors.
It is likely he leaves with his full financial exit package, perhaps worth his annual $3 million salary.
Ken Barton (photo: Crown Resorts)
Crown today confirmed the chief executive’s departure and announced that Helen Coonan would lead the company as executive chairman while the board sought a new CEO.
She said: “I would like to thank Ken for his dedication and commitment to Crown. Ken joined Crown more than a decade ago and has played an invaluable role with the business, initially as CFO and in the year as CEO. Ken has always put the interests of Crown first.
“Assuming the role of Executive Chairman is a decision I have not taken lightly, but the board feels it provided leadership stability and certainty at this important time for the business.
“The board is determined to maintain the momentum as Crown takes significant steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture.
“Working closely with the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and regulators in Victoria and Western Australia, I will continue to lead on the implementation of Crown’s ambitious reform program.”
Alleged casino money laundering
In her inquiry findings published last week, commissioner and retired judge Patricia Bergin said Crown had been “facilitating money laundering, exposing staff to the risk of detention in a foreign jurisdiction and persuing commercial relationships with individuals” connected to criminal groups.
She pulled no punches in her 751-page report, one of the most damning of any Australian company in recent memory, saying most of the board should be sacked – followed by an overhaul of the Crown governance operations.
On Barton specifically, she ruled he had shown a “breathtaking lack of care” while facing up to the allegations, adding: “He is no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino licensee.”
With that sort of bullet, it was inevitable that Barton would not last much longer, and no surprise that he walked over the weekend.
Through Crown, Barton said: “Over the past ten years, Crown has established itself as a great Australian company with world-class assets, and I am absolutely certain the business is now on the right path as it works to restore confidence in its operations.”
James Packer shares
There now remains doubt over what will happen to the casino in Crown’s flagship newly-built tower in Sydney. The company spent AUD$2.2billion on its new gaming complex.
The news is a hammer blow to James Packer, who had longed to build a state-of-the-art casino complex in his home city. It remains to be seen if Bergin’s recommendation that his shareholding in Crown Resorts is capped at 10% (down from his current 36%) is enforced.