An attorney representing Former Crown Resorts director John Poynton testified today before a royal commission in Western Australia that his client was unjustly pressured to resign from the Aussie casino business.
The Perth Casino Royal Commission resumed hearings this week. The commission is reviewing whether Crown Resorts remains suitable to operate casino gambling at its Crown Perth integrated resort.
The probe follows a royal commission in New South Wales deeming Crown unqualified to receive a casino license for its recently opened Crown Sydney, and another ongoing review initiated in Victoria regarding the casino firm’s suitability to continue running Crown Melbourne.
Poynton resigned from the Crown Resorts board of directors and chairman and director of Crown Perth in March. But his legal representative — Peter Ward — says his client’s departure from the organization was forced. Ward told the Perth commission that Crown board chair Helen Coonan forced the longtime Crown executive out.
Poynton himself is expected to appear before the commission this Wednesday, July 28. The casino inquiry’s report deadline was extended last week by four months, the final publication now due in March 2022.
Poynton No Packer Puppet
Poynton became the director of Crown Perth in 2004. He joined the Crown board in November of 2018.
The NSW casino suitability investigation — informally called the Bergin Inquiry — concluded that Poynton was too close of a confidant to James Packer, the billionaire who founded and formerly served as CEO and chairman of Crown Resorts. The royal commission ruled in its decision not to issue Crown a casino license that Packer had too much control over the organization, and that resulted in regulatory adherence shortcomings.
But in testimony today in Perth, Ward said that simply isn’t true.
“Until 2018, Mr. Poynton’s role was limited to that of a non-executive director,” Ward explained. “Mr. Poynton was appointed to the board of Crown Resorts as a nominee of Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) in 2018 following the resignation of Mr. Packer.”
CPH is Packer’s conglomerate holdings entity, and owns a 36.8 percent stake in Crown Resorts.
There was no evidence before the Bergin Inquiry and no suggestion that Mr. Poynton has ever been beholden to Mr. Packer. There is no suggestion that Mr. Poynton ever shared information with Mr. Packer from the Crown Resorts board meetings… He acted independently,” Ward declared.
Ward says Poynton resigned not due to any wrongdoing, but as a result of being “placed under significant pressure by both the chair of Crown Resorts and the NSW regulator.”
In Crown’s announcement of Poynton’s resignation, Coonan conceded that no evidence was found that he acted inappropriately.
“As a result of … a perceived lack of independence arising out of his past relationship with Mr. Packer, John has agreed to resign in the best interests of Crown and our shareholders, despite no adverse findings by the Commissioner in the Inquiry in relation to his suitability, integrity, or performance,” Coonan stated.
Poynton Denies Takeover
Aussie rival casino operator Star Entertainment withdrew its proposed reverse takeover of Crown Resorts last week. One offer still remains — a bid from US-based private equity firm Oaktree Capital to acquire Packer’s nearly 38 percent stake in Crown Resorts for $2.21 billion.
With Crown’s future unknown, rumblings have surfaced Down Under, although one is said to be unfounded. Ward told the Western Australia commission that the rumors of his client trying to form a consortium to buy Crown Perth has “absolutely no truth.”
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