Crown Resorts CEO Barton Resigns Following Bombshell Money Laundering Report

Posted on: February 15, 2021, 01:14h. 

Last updated on: February 15, 2021, 03:23h.

Crown Resorts CEO Ken Barton resigned Monday, as the fallout continued from a damning report that has left the company fighting for its license in New South Wales.

Ken Barton
Ken Barton, seen here, is expected to receive a big check despite harsh criticism of his performance as Crown CEO. (Image: The West Australian)

Barton’s resignation has been in the cards ever since the publication of the report by former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin. That report described him as “no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino licensee.

His problems will not be cured by the appointment of people expert in the field who report to him,” Bergin said.

The report concluded that Crown was “facilitating money laundering, exposing staff to the risk of detention in a foreign jurisdiction, and pursuing commercial relationships with individuals with connections to Triads and organized crime groups.”

It recommended that the state gaming regulator, ILGA, refuse to renew Crown’s gaming license in NSW. The company opened its $1.7 billion Sydney resort in December without casino operations.

$3 Million Payday

Despite being singled out in Bergin’s report, Barton is expected to walk away with at least an AU$3m payout ($2.3 million), according to The Guardian.

Bergin said Barton demonstrated a “breath-taking lack of care” when responding to allegations in the media that Crown was facilitating money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth properties.

In his previous role as CFO, he had been personally responsible for two VIP accounts that had been used by criminal gangs to launder the proceeds of their illegal operations, Bergin said.

Barton was appointed CEO in January 2020, having been at the company for over a decade. Helen Coonan, current chair of the board, will replace him until a new CEO is found.

“Assuming the role of executive chairman is a decision I have not taken lightly. But the board feels it provides leadership stability and certainty at this important time for the business,” Coonan said in a release to the ASX.

Coonan said Monday the company was taking “significant steps to improve our governance, compliance, and culture.”

Exec Exodus

Barton follows five other Crown execs out the door. These include Michael Johnston and Guy Jalland, who represented Crown’s biggest shareholder, billionaire James Packer, on the board.

Bergin criticized Packer for acting like a “de facto director,” despite not having sat on the board for several years, and suggested he had a “dysfunctional influence” on the company.

She also recommended that equity caps of 10 percent be placed on Crown ownership. That would mean Packer would be forced to divest himself of a chunk of his equity in the company, if not all of it.

Packer said during testimony at the Bergin inquiry that he would be prepared to give up his stake in Crown if it protected the company’s licenses.