Crown director John Poynton steps down

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Crown sale could lead to asset break up

Another key director at Crown Resorts has stepped down, with WA-based John Poynton resigning.

ABC News reports that Mr Poynton has resigned from the board and as a chairman of the company’s Burswood casino in Perth with immediate effect.

In a statement, Crown chair Helen Coonan said the decision was “appropriate” after concerns by the New South Wales gaming regulator about Mr Poynton’s perceived lack of independence from a past relationship with majority shareholder James Packer.

“John has agreed to resign in the best interests of Crown and our shareholders, despite no adverse findings by the Commissioner in the ILGA inquiry in relation to his suitability, integrity or performance,” Ms Coonan said.

“On behalf of the board, I thank John for his contribution to Crown over many years.”

Mr Poynton is the fifth Crown director to resign from the company’s board in the wake of the release of the Bergin report last month.

The NSW inquiry found Crown Resorts was unsuitable to hold a casino licence due to poor governance.

The report made 19 recommendations, including proposing several legislative changes aimed specifically at addressing money laundering activities uncovered at Crown Casino Perth and the company’s Melbourne operation.

WA’s gaming regulatory recently recommended the McGowan government establish an independent inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold the state’s only casino licence.

Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia said he would move quickly to establish the inquiry, which would be given four months to investigate.

Mr Poynton said he decided to resign in the best interests of Crown and its shareholders, despite the Bergin inquiry making no findings against his integrity or performance on the Crown board.

“Given the advice from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority about perceptions about my independence arising out of my past relationship with James Packer and CPH, I believe resigning is the right thing to do,” he said.

He also said the inquiry noted his commitment and contribution would be integral to Crown’s future success.

Mr Poynton has wished Crown all the best at this challenging time.

Crown royal commission highlights Packer’s relationship with state heavyweights 

Plans for a royal commission into Crown Melbourne has been the talk of the town recently, with the relationship between Crown’s majority shareholder James Packer and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews firmly in the spotlight.

The Australian Financial Review reports that the relationship between Andrews and Packer dates back years and when the Premier served as gaming minister for two years, shortly after Kerry Packer’s death in late 2005.

The pair’s relationship speaks to the incredible political and cultural pull Crown has in Melbourne, sitting on the Yarra at the heart of the city’s Southbank precinct for 24 years.

That influence is clear just from considering the potential witness list for the newly announced royal commission, starting with Andrews and Packer.

“Melbourne’s culture and political torchbearers and gatekeepers were all enlisted, co-opted and in some cases paid by Crown; it has been a total brick wall while they all walked in lockstep,” Tim Costello, anti-gaming advocate and brother to former treasurer Peter said.

“Crown just became too entrenched and was seen as too big to fail.”

Costello believes the royal commission could finally change that equation, if Packer is forced to sell down his 37 per cent stake and a cleanout of the board truly signals that Crown is losing its grip on power in Melbourne.

The signs are all around.

Andrews, who political insiders say was wedged by the NSW Bergin report and new gaming minister Melissa Horne, will struggle to provide much political protection, despite pointing on Tuesday to the jobs it creates as the state’s largest single-site employer.

“Some people want to bulldoze the joint,” Andrews recently said, incredulous.

Recently ousted directors, including former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou and well-known Melbourne media man Harold Mitchell are likely to give evidence, but will be focused on protecting their own reputations.

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