Packer Exits Crown Resorts
In the latest hoopla surrounding Australian casino operator Crown Resorts, billionaire honcho James Packer has stepped down as director of the company.
In a brief statement to the Australian Securities Exchange last week, Executive Chairman John Alexander said, “We have appreciated James’ contribution to the board and respect his decision to step down from his role as a director at this time.”
A spokesman for Packer’s private investment company, Consolidated Press Holdings, added that Packer is “suffering from mental health issues. At this time he intends to step back from all commitments.”
It’s been a tough couple of years for Packer, son of late Aussie media giant Kerry Packer, whose estimated net worth—A$3.9 billion (US$3.1 billion)—makes him one of the 10 wealthiest people in Australia.
Most recently, his name surfaced in reports about the bribery scandal involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is under investigation for taking lavish gifts from businessmen including Packer. Israeli police have recommended he be indicted in two cases of alleged corruption.
In addition, Victoria’s gaming regulator has launched disciplinary action over Crown’s trial of “blanking buttons” on its poker machines, a violation that could lead to penalties up to and including a revocation of the company’s license in the state.
In October 2016, Chinese authorities arrested 19 Crown employees in Shanghai for promoting the company’s casinos to high rollers on the mainland—a violation of China’s strict laws about gambling. The detainees were not released for almost a year—a disastrous year in which Crown shares tumbled, domestic VIP business dried up, and enraged shareholders filed a lawsuit alleging the operator’s marketing practices caused the stock to plummet. In the months that followed, Crown divested its interests in joint-venture casinos in Macau and was fined AU$1.67 million (US$1.29 million) by the Chinese government, reported News.au.com.
Packer’s personal life has been the subject of gossip, too, especially his 18-month engagement to U.S. pop singer Mariah Carey. Their relationship made the businessman fodder for the entertainment press, and after the couple broke up last year, Packer paid Carey a settlement of somewhere between AU$6 million and AU$13 million (US$6.4 million-$13.9 million), reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I was at a low point in my personal life,” Packer said of the relationship. “She was kind, exciting and fun. Mariah is a woman of substance. But it was a mistake for her and a mistake for me.”
He was also at loggerheads with his sister Gretel over the disposition of their father’s estate. “Stages of the negotiation with Gretel were difficult,” he told the Australian. “But a framework for future resolution was achieved.”
Packer is believed to be in the United States where he is receiving help for depression and anxiety, the Guardian reported.