Hotels

Crown Resorts CEO exits following damning report on casino licence bid

Ken Barton has finally bowed to pressure to resign as CEO and managing director of Crown Resorts, following a scathing report on the company’s bid for a casino licence.

Crown announced Barton’s immediate departure this morning, adding that Helen Coonan will lead the company as executive chairman while the board oversees a search for a new boss.

“I would like to thank Ken for his dedication and commitment to Crown,” Coonan said.

“Ken joined Crown more than a decade ago and has played an invaluable role with the business, initially as CFO and in the past year as CEO.

“Ken has always put the interests of Crown first.

Coonan said her decision to step in as executive chairman at Crown was “not taken lightly, but the board feels it provides 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 implementation of Crown’s ambitious reform program.”

Commenting on his departure, Barton said: “I would like to thank the Crown directors for the opportunity to work with them on implementing Crown’s strategy.

“Over the past 10 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.

“I am committed to assisting with the transition to new leadership.”

Barton’s resignation comes not long after Andrew Demetriou resigned as a director of Crown and as chairman of Crown Melbourne. Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston have also resigned as directors of Crown.

All of the company’s executive changes have come in the wake of an inquiry report commissioned by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) into suspicious activity within the accounts of VIP players at Crown casinos.

Crown halted the commencement of gaming operations at Crown Sydney (also known as ‘Packer’s Pecker’) until after the inquiry’s findings were released, after the company dropped a money laundering bombshell during the probe in November last year.

The $2.4 billion Barangaroo project also includes a 350-room hotel, along with 14 bars and restaurants, which have already opened to the public.

Commissioner Patricia Bergin’s report found Crown to be unsuitable in its current state to operate a casino at the Barangaroo property, and said the company’s cultural changes would need to be overhauled for that to change.

Coonan said the commissioner’s findings of serious conduct, culture and compliance issues “clearly do not accord” with Crown’s values.

“I accept criticism is warranted and reiterate our unreserved apologies for these shortcomings,” she said in a statement last week.

“While we have already taken a number of important steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture, I recognise from the commissioner’s report we have much more to do.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the problem and appreciate there is a need for ‘root and branch’ change. This change has commenced.”

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