Australian casino operator Crown Resorts is preparing to announce a new CEO following a review of the business by its chairman of the board.
On Wednesday, Australian media reported that Crown chairman John Alexander plans to trim hundreds of employees from the company’s payroll, including CEO Rowen Craigie, who has held that position for nearly a decade. Barry Felstead, who heads up Crown’s domestic resort business, is tipped to succeed Craigie as CEO.
Alexander, who was appointed executive chairman in January, was given a broad mandate by Crown director and largest shareholder James Packer to cut Crown’s expenses as the company restructures to focus on its domestic business. Alexander is also mulling whether it’s worth maintaining Crown’s horseracing and rugby league sponsorship deals, the latter including the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The reports come ahead of the release of Crown’s fiscal H1, which is expected to be brutal. Crown’s domestic rival, The Star Entertainment Group, reported a significant decline in VIP gambling turnover in its fiscal H1 report last week.
The Star’s slowdown was in part credited to the uncertainty sparked by last year’s arrest of 18 Crown staffers in China for luring mainland VIP gamblers to Crown’s domestic casinos. New CEO Felstead was in China just days before the arrests, which included Crown’s head of VIP Jason O’Connor, who remains in a Chinese jail awaiting formal charges on illegal gambling activities.
Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked if he was concerned about the arrested Australians receiving due process in China. Turnbull essentially pleaded helpless in his ability to influence the matter, saying his government would “always seek to support Australians” but added that “when you’re in China, you have to obey the laws of China.”
O’Connor and the other arrested Crown staffers reportedly broached China’s laws about promoting gambling activity. Many international casino operators carry out marketing initiatives on the mainland with the understanding that they only promote their venues’ non-gaming amenities.