Australian billionaire Packer admits to having “many oversights” in Crown governance

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(Corrects a typographical error in the 2nd last graf to say “employer”, not “employee”)

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian billionaire James Packer on Friday acknowledged “many oversights” in the management of the casino company he founded, Crown Resorts Ltd, and failed to meet licensing requirements for one. of its complexes by missing four years of board meetings.

Packer left all corporate positions at the A $ 7 billion ($ 5.3 billion) company in 2018, but set his strategy as executive chairman and largest shareholder for more than a decade. Once a staple of the Australian business landscape, his testimony before a commission of inquiry was his first public appearance in a year.

Like similar inquiries into Crown’s resorts in Sydney and Melbourne, Friday’s hearing focused on its management of money laundering risks in the west coast city of Perth, which generates a quarter of its profits.

“Looking back, there are a lot of oversights and things that should have been done differently,” Packer, 54, said via a video link.

Prior to the investigations, no Crown Director had expertise in money laundering prevention, which was an oversight, he said.

“I did not believe at the time that Crown Perth was engaged in money laundering,” he added.

Packer, who still owns 37% of the company, said he left Australia in 2013 and missed Perth Crown Casino board meetings until 2016, despite being the chairman of the branch. . He said he should have resigned or attended.

When the former investigating judge suggested that Packer’s absence was inconsistent with the Crown’s permit requirements, he said “I accept”.

Crown investigations began after media accused the company of turning a blind eye to organized crime and disregarding the safety of 19 employees arrested in China in 2016 for breaking its anti-gambling laws. country.

The Sydney investigation, where Packer testified a year earlier, ultimately froze Crown’s gaming license in Australia’s largest city. Another investigation this week resulted in a supervisor being assigned the task of overseeing the company’s flagship Melbourne casino.

Packer has since removed his associates from the Crown’s board of directors to avoid a perception of interference. The company has also replaced its president, CEO and most of the directors and officers in the past year.

He told the inquest on Friday that the company had already been named “Employer of the Year” by the Western Australian State Government, but “I think at some point the culture took off. slipped “.

When asked if he attributed this to his absence, Packer replied, “Potentially.”

($ 1 = AU $ 1.3268)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Stephen Coates)


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