James Packer to Testify From Superyacht in Crown Resorts Suitability Inquiry

Posted on: October 5, 2020, 10:29h. 

Last updated on: October 5, 2020, 12:12h.

Australian billionaire James Packer will testify tomorrow in New South Wales (NSW) regarding Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino license in Sydney. He’ll do so remotely from aboard his $200 million superyacht.

James Packer Crown Resorts Sydney
James Packer will tomorrow field questions from his floating paradise regarding the suitability of Crown Resorts to do business in New South Wales. (Image: Daily Mail)

On Tuesday, the world will be able to see and hear directly from the much-gossiped celebrity businessman, as he takes questions from the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Packer is the founder of Crown Resort and remains the Australian casino company’s largest shareholder. He has tried to stay out of the public eye over the past several years.

The inquiry revolves around Crown Resorts’ $2 billion integrated casino resort in Barangaroo. Specifically, the state government is determining whether Crown’s alleged failures in the past to prevent its casinos from being used to launder money by criminal enterprises justifies the revocation of its gaming operations permit. Crown Sydney is slated to open in December.

Crown officials have admitted to the NSW inquiry that its other properties — Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth — have experienced failures in financial tracking and reporting.

Packer resigned from the Crown Resorts board in 2018. He retains a 36 percent stake in the gaming and hospitality company he founded in 2007.

Melco’s Controversial Sale

The NSW inquiry tomorrow is expected to heavily focus on Packer’s quick attempt to sell nearly 20 percent of his stake in Crown Resorts last year. The buyer was Melco Resorts, the casino empire of Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho.

The deal, however, was abruptly terminated by Ho after the first 9.99 percent tranche was completed. Ho said economic uncertainty regarding COVID-19 was the reason to fold on the second 9.99 percent.

Melco sold the first bunch of shares at a deep discount to Blackstone Group, effectively dissolving Melco and Crown’s relationship. But NSW investigators are asking why Crown didn’t properly notify the gaming regulator of Packer’s decision to sell.

Testimony before the NSW inquiry last week revealed that Packer negotiated the Melco sale largely by himself, and surprised Crown brass when he “urgently” requested company financial projections through 2022. When asked to consider alternative options by Crown board member Michael Johnston, Packer replied in a text, “Mike, it’s my life and I’m going to overrule you.”

Adding to the Melco sale controversy is that Lawrence Ho is one of the late Stanley Ho’s children. The “King of Gambling,” who held a gaming monopoly in Macau for decades, has long been linked to organized crime throughout Asia.

An entity controlled by Stanley Ho’s trust is a major investor in Melco.

Mariah Carey Cold Shoulder 

Packer largely exited the public space following his disastrous quick relationship and engagement to music superstar Mariah Carey. The two called things off in October of 2016, and she later sold the 35-carat diamond ring he gave her for $2.1 million.

This week, Carey — promoting her memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey — said she didn’t include her time with Packer in the book because, “If it was a relationship that mattered, it’s in the book. If not, it didn’t occur.”

“James and I didn’t have a physical relationship,” Carey added to The Guardian.