Crown’s board overruled Helen Coonan’s suggestions, inquiry hears

The Victorian Royal Commission into Crown Resorts continues
The Victorian Royal Commission into Crown Resorts continues

Helen Coonan, Crown Resorts’ executive chairman, has said she was “overruled” by the casino’s board when she suggested former CEO Ken Barton resign last year.

Australia.- Victoria’s Royal Commission into Crown Resorts has heard from the casino operator’s CEO Helen Coonan.

She told the inquiry that she had suggested former Crown CEO Ken Barton should resign last year after James Packer testified to New South Wales’ inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold its new Sydney casino licence last year. Coonan said she was “overruled” by Crown’s board.

Coonan said she was of the opinion that reform of the casino operator couldn’t happen until most of the company’s board had resigned.

She said: “I became increasingly concerned about the strategy then as the evidence began to unfold, and I thought we needed to take a very different approach.”

Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin found Crown unsuitable to hold its licence for its second Sydney casino when she delivered her report from the inquiry in February.

Ken Barton resigned as Crown’s CEO the same month following board members Guy Jalland, Michael Johnston and Andrew Demetriou.

WA Royal Commission opens submissions to the public

Western Australia’s Royal Commission has issued a media statement requesting information from the public about possible money laundering and improper conduct at Crown Perth.

The Royal Commission said it is seeking to engage with customers and their families, current and former Crown Perth employees and current and former government employees.

The deadline to provide information is August 2. The second phase of the Commission’s inquiry will resume on Friday, 23 July, with witnesses to be called from Monday, 26 July.

Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment possible merger

In the last week of June, Crown Resorts CEO Steve McCann met with The Star Entertainment CEO Matt Bekier to talk about the potential merger of the two casino operators.

Although more details of the virtual meeting have not been released, according to local media, McCann could be willing to work on a deal and may have asked Star to provide more details about its offer for Crown.

In May, The Star Entertainment made an unsolicited non-binding offer of AU$12bn (US$9.4bn). If Crown Resorts accepts the offer, Crown shareholders could retain 59 per cent of the shares while Star shareholders could own 41 per cent of the newly-merged entity.

Star Entertainment said the fusion would deliver between AU$150m to AU$200m of cost synergies per annum with an estimated net value of AU$2bn.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman, Rod Sims said a public review would be carried out to decide whether Star Entertainment would be allowed to make the acquisition.

Sims noted that the potential merger would result in a casino giant with operations in the main Australian states. 

There’s been speculation that a potential merger could prompt a new independent casino authority in NSW, which would likely ban junkets and demand enhanced requirements for suitability.

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