Crown Perth Chairman John Poynton is Latest Head to Roll Among James Packer’s Old Guard

By | March 1, 2021

Crown Perth Chairman John Poynton quit Monday, the latest executive casualty of a damning money report that also criticized the ubiquity of James Packer loyalists among Crown Resorts directors.

John Poynton
John Poynton’s (pictured) perceived coziness with James Packer led to his departure from Crown Resorts Monday. (Image: The Australian)

Poynton is the third representative of Packer’s private investment company Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) to resign from powerful positions at Crown in the past few weeks. He follows Michael Johnston and Guy Jalland out of the door.

Billionaire Packer is Crown Resorts’ biggest shareholder, although he has not held a position on the board since a brief stint in 2018.

But in her damning report on the company published in February, former New South Wales Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin criticized Packer’s continued “dysfunctional influence” on the company through the trusted lieutenants he had installed in the boardroom.

After his departure, arrangements were made for directors to share privileged information about the company with Packer, representing a conflict of interest for board members whose fiduciary duty was to maximize value for all shareholders, not just one.

It also meant Packer was party to inside information when he came to sell shares, such as when Melco agreed to buy 20 percent of Crown for $1.76 billion in 2019.

Lack of Independence

Poynton had been on Crown’s board since 2018. In response to criticism of his relationship with Packer, he announced last month he would leave CPH and continue at Crown as an independent director.

But on Monday, Crown Executive Chair Helen Coonan announced the state gaming regulator had requested Poynton step down because of a “perceived lack of independence arising out of his past relationship” with Packer.

Bergin’s report recommended Crown Resorts be refused licensing in New South Wales because of “poor corporate governance, deficient risk-management structures and processes, and a poor corporate culture.”

She also found the company was “facilitating money laundering, exposing staff to the risk of detention in a foreign jurisdiction, and pursuing commercial relationships with individuals” connected to organized crime.

Bergin noted that Packer was one of the key driving forces in encouraging Crown’s relationship with Macau junkets, some of which had associations with triad gangs.

Worker Underpayment

Meanwhile, according to The Age, Crown has self-reported to the workplace fairness watchdog following media accusations of widespread underpayment of hospitality workers at the company’s casino resorts.

The legislature in the state of Victoria, home to Crown’s flagship Melbourne casino, have passed laws making deliberate wage theft a crime.

Officials in Victoria have also said they will launch a public inquiry into Crown’s suitability for licensing in the state, similar to the Bergin inquiry recently completed in New South Wales.

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