Packer could be called to inquiry
James Packer is set to be thrust into the spotlight as an inquiry was launched on Tuesday into the billionaire’s proposal to sell 20 per cent of the Crown Resorts casino operation to a Hong Kong businessman.
The inquiry, held in Sydney, is also expected to explore allegations of money laundering in Crown’s VIP high roller rooms.
In 2019, Nine News reports that an investigation by 60 Minutes, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age looked into claims of money laundering, fast-tracked visa applications for wealth Crown clients and other issues.
The New South Wales inquiry, led by former New South Wales Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, will dig into Packer’s proposed $1.7 billion sale of Crown shares to a Macau casino mogul, Lawrence Ho.
Mr Ho’s elderly father, Stanley Ho, is banned from having any association with any Australian gambling operations because of his alleged links to criminal syndicates.
Mr Packer and Lawrence Ho, who owns Melco Resorts, are expected to give witness testimony at the inquiry.
The inquiry has the potential to derail Mr Packer’s billion-dollar sale to Ho’s company.
Macau a turning point
The young billionaires opened their first Macau casino in 2007, with hopes of luring mainland China’s biggest bettors.
Packer’s global ambitions took at this time, when Chinese authorities rounded up Crown’s staff on the mainland.
A court convicted 19 current and former employees for illegally promoting gambling.
According to Kitney’s biography and based on extension interviews with Packer, the arrests hit the billionaire hard.
Packer was at the time staying in a house in Los Angeles with close friend Warren Beatty.
Packer recalls in the book that he was drinking as much as a bottle of vodka everyday, with Beatty driving him to a psychiatrist for medication.
The episode made Packer desire a more simplistic life and he lived for an extensive period at his polo estate in Argentina.
Crown had closed almost all of its regional marketing offices in Asia within a year of the China debacle.
This funneled big stakes players to Australia and sold out of the Macau casino venue.
The company also ditched a plot in Las Vegas where Packer once hoped to build a casino.
Wynn’s $14.75 a share proposal would have shrunk Packer’s share in Crown to a smaller take in the US gaming giant, which owns resorts in Las Vegas and Macau.
Pansy Ho sells $79m worth of shares
The daughter of casino mogul Stanley Ho, Pansy Ho, has sold 2.45 million of her shares in her latest portfolio restructuring bid.
Gambling News reported in December that MGM Resorts International partner Pansy Ho reduced her stake as per Hong Kong Stock Exchange filings.
The businesswoman is executive director of MGM China Holdings, the Asian facing arm of the American hospitality giant, and operator of properties such as MGM Macau and MGM Cotai.
Ms Ho’s decision to sell the shares has fetched her $79 million, Seeking Alpha revealed.
According to the news outlet, Ms Ho had sold her shares between November 26 and December 12, slashing her total ownership in the company down to 1.78 per cent from 2.2 per cent perviously.
Shares sold at $32.12.