Rankin will remain as director

Packer returns to Crown Resorts

Robert Rankin will step down as chair of Crown on February 1, but will remain on the board, the company told investors in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Australia 
| 10/01/2017

James Packer has rejoined the board of the casino giant Crown Resorts, and the company's executive chairman is moving aside, after a profit slump and a debacle in China which saw 18 Crown employees arrested on suspicion of breaching the nation's strict anti-gambling laws.

According to a report by ABC Australia, Mr Packer also appears to be looking to consolidate his grip on the board by appointing another director aligned to him.

Executive chairman Robert Rankin is leaving the role as part of a reshuffle that sees Crown's executive deputy chairman John Alexander - a long-time Packer associate - elevated to run the gambling business.

Mr Rankin is also quitting as chief executive of Consolidated Press Holdings, a private corporate vehicle of the Packer family, under what was described in a press release as an "amicable agreement" with James Packer.

Consolidated Press Holdings is Crown's major shareholder and owns almost half the stock.

Consolidated Press has advised Crown's board it intends to appoint its incoming chief executive, Guy Jalland, "to the next casual vacancy on the Crown Resorts board, or by the expansion of the board at the next AGM, if approved by shareholders."

The board shake-up follows a steep decline in profits from Crown's Macau casino interests and questions about the viability of its expansion plans in Australia following the crackdown by Chinese authorities on its attempts to solicit high rollers from China

Three Australian employees are among the Crown staff facing potential three year jail terms after being arrested in China last year for allegedly violating laws which prohibit "running a gambling house".

Mr Rankin will step down as chair of Crown on February 1, but will remain on the board, the company told investors in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

"Rob is a world class chief executive who has done a very good job at CPH and Crown," a further statement issued under CPH's name quoted Mr Packer as saying.

"I trust and respect him today as much as ever and we remain the closest of friends."

The new chairman, John Alexander, said his focus would remain on increasing the company's value.

"I am very pleased to be taking on the chairmanship of Crown Resorts at this time, particularly given our recent announcements aimed at maximising shareholder value," he said in a statement.

Mr Alexander began his career as a business reporter, and later editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning and The Australian Financial Review, before jumping ship to the Packer empire where he has held a series of senior executive positions.

China's actions against Crown and its staff are a major threat to the company's revenues

Crown's planned $2 billion casino at Barrangaroo in Sydney was approved by the State Government on the basis that it would not target local gamblers but instead lure well-heeled gamblers, known as "whales", from China - an action that is apparently illegal under that nation's laws.

With China seemingly determined to stop the "whale hunt" and stem the flow of punters to Crown's gambling dens, the company is now focussing on its Australian operations and its foray into online wagering.

Yogonet.com/abc.net.au

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