Crown Resorts Founder James Packer Admits to ‘Numerous Failings’

Posted on: November 1, 2021, 03:04h. 

Last updated on: November 2, 2021, 09:29h.

Crown Resorts founder James Packer recently admitted to “many oversights” during the time he ran the casino company. This was a result, in part, of not complying with the requirements because of missing four years of board meetings.

James Packer
James Packer, seen above, faces further losses at Crown Resorts as he continues to be questioned by regulators in Australia (Image: Screengrab via ABC News)

Last Friday, Packer testified at a suitability inquiry examining Crown’s operations in Perth, Western Australia. During the hearing, officials heard details about Crown’s ongoing issues in Melbourne and Sydney, as well as how the business dealt with money-laundering risks in Perth. The resort in Perth is the source of one-fourth of the profit of the company.

Packer, a 37% owner of the company, indicated he had left Australia in 2013. He was not present at any of the board meetings in Perth from then until 2016, even though he was the chairman, he said. Packer said he should have resigned or been present.

In 2018, Packer ceased all his corporate roles in the AU$7 billion (US$7.1 billion) company, although he set the line of action of the company for over a decade in the role of CEO and top shareholder.

Ongoing Hearings Keep Crown Resorts in the Hot Seat

At the hearing, Packer did not present any objections to selling most of his 37% share of the company and keeping 5%, which is what another inquiry in Victoria has advised.

Packer said he did not know of any illegalities in his company. That is, until 19 of his employees were arrested in China in 2016 for promoting gambling in that country, where it is illegal. The company disclosed at the time that it would pay a fine of $125 million to settle a class action lawsuit because of its operations in China.

Crown has been under scrutiny in three states in Australia, where it operates casinos. Royal commissions in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria found that the company was not suitable for owning a license to operate in those states. That’s after it was revealed that money laundering had regularly been taking place at the company’s casinos there. NSW decided to suspend Crown’s license in the state. But Victoria has given it two years to clean up its act.

Packer Shirks Responsibilities

Packer served as chairman of Crown Resorts and another company, Burswood Limited, that was in charge of overseeing the Perth casino between 2007 and 2015. He admitted that not being present as chair of Burswood from 2013 to 2016 might have harmed the management of that casino.

His absence might also may have led to ANZ closing an account the company had maintained at the bank. That account was associated with another company, Riverbank, that was discovered to be associated with money laundering activity.  It was ultimately reported to the board of directors.

Packer also said that the board should have had independent directors instead of senior executives. This led to bad management in which Crown Perth was overseeing itself. He disagreed, however, with other evidence provided by an ex-director and chair of the Burswood board. John Poynton, the former executive, stated that the board did not have the authority to tell the Perth casino how to carry out its operations.

Packer objected to statements made by Patricia Cahill SC, counsel assisting the commission. She stated that agreements between the state and Crown Melbourne operations would have been detrimental to Perth casino and its obligations to the WA government.

“I was financially and emotionally committed to Perth, and I wanted Perth. Perth was very important to me. It was the first casino that PBL bought outside of Melbourne,” Packer said.

Packer was slow to answer at times and showed a need for questions to be repeated. In a written statement, he reiterated that he has suffered from important health issues since 2016 and has been diagnosed as bipolar. He added that he continues to take strong medication and undergoes treatment that might have impaired his ability to remember events in the past.