Friday saw several reports of a big shakeup at the corporate level of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd. Already facing an inquiry related to whether they will retain their New South Wales gaming license, the company announced some major changes to their senior management team.
In a statement issued by the company, they explained that Helen Coonan had been named as Chair of Crown, moving over from her non-executive director position. In addition, non-executive director John Horvath was moved to the position of Deputy Chair of Crown.
This was just the beginning, however. Ken Barton moves from Crown’s Chief Financial Officer to the position of Chief Executive Officer. He was also approved by the board as the Managing Director of Crown. This move must still meet regulatory approval before he officially takes over this position.
The shuffling at the top appears to have been in response to John Alexander stepping down as Crown Resorts Chairman. Published reports have been pushing the idea that Crown Resorts needed to force Alexander out of his executive role and to push for a bigger set of changes at the top.
Crown’s largest stockholder James Packer appears to have been spearheading the move. Alexander had long been a Packer lieutenant, but he has been under a microscope since a fiery October meeting with shareholders.
At that meeting, a series of scandals took center stage, as Packer delivered protest votes against two executives that the company. During the meeting, Alexander repeatedly tried to tamp down questions from two anti-gambling activists, Tim Costello and Stephen Mayne, who raised a series of questions, including some related to favorable treatment for high rollers.
There have also been numerous allegations of money laundering by criminals. Costello and Mayne questioned if the company was more interested in meeting the needs of high-value players than ensuring that criminal activity was not occurring. At that time, it appeared that the writing was on the wall for Alexander.
Alexander has served as executive chairman since February 2017.
Coonan takes over as the new Chair. In a statement, she explained, “The Crown Board has been working for some time to consider and to implement a governance structure that is more in line with the traditional model with a Non-executive Chair, a position that I am very honoured and privileged to have been asked to hold, and a separate CEO. This new structure is in line with feedback we have received from a number of proxy advisers and shareholders and better aligns with contemporary governance practices.”