Crown CEO Ken Barton Clings On After Scathing Casino Report
(Bloomberg) -- Crown Resorts Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Ken Barton is clinging on to his job, resisting sustained pressure to quit after a scathing regulatory report found the Australian casino operator facilitated money laundering and wasn’t fit to hold a license in Sydney.
The Australian newspaper reported Thursday that Barton had agreed to step down after a meeting with Chairman Helen Coonan. But the company said in a statement Friday that “contrary to media reports,” Barton “has not resigned.”
“Crown and Mr. Barton are continuing to consider his position,” Crown said in its statement. Barton became CEO and a director of Crown, Australia’s biggest casino operator, in early 2020 after 10 years as chief financial officer.
The report by former judge Patricia Bergin, released on Tuesday, was particularly critical of Barton. “He is no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino licensee,” she wrote.
After a year-long inquiry for the state gaming watchdog in New South Wales, Bergin recommended an overhaul of Crown’s management, governance and culture before the company could start gaming operations at its A$2.2 billion ($1.7 billion) Sydney casino.
Crown shares fell as much as 1.7% early Friday before trading down 1.1% at A$9.94 at 10:10 a.m. in Sydney, valuing the company at A$6.7 billion.
Crown said Friday in a separate statement that Andrew Demetriou had resigned from the board. He follows both board nominees of Crown’s biggest shareholder, James Packer, who left earlier this week.
Barton disclosed last year during Bergin’s investigation that Crown hadn’t yet analyzed the accounts that were reportedly used by money launderers. Barton was also unaware for years that a major junket operator had a cash desk at Crown’s Melbourne casino, even though the setup posed a money-laundering risk.
“His problems will not be cured by the appointment of people expert in the field who report to him,” Bergin said in her report. His evidence during the inquiry “demonstrated a serious lack of judgment,” she said.
Philip Crawford, chair of the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, said Thursday there was “a certain obviousness” to the notion that Barton should step down. “More people have got to go,” he told local radio.
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