Crown CEO Ken Barton Resigns Following Damning Report
The bloodletting at Crown Resorts has begun with CEO Ken Barton falling on his sword. Several Crown board members have resigned following the scathing Begrin report, but Barton is the highest-profile of them all.
Barton met with Crown chair Helen Coonan on February 11 where he resigned from his role of CEO. Crown appointed Barton as CEO on January 24, 2020, and Managing Director on March 3, 2020. He held the position of Chief Financial Officer at Crown previously.
The Begrin inquiry which concluded Crown isn’t fit to hold a casino licence in Sydney was scathing in its review of Barton and his ability to run a major casino. Commissioner Patricia Begrin did not hold back when it came to her thoughts on the CEO.
“He is no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino licensee.”
Begrin called Barton’s action at Crown’s 2019 AGM “appalling.” Barton misled shareholders by telling them confidential information he shared with James Packer was only general information.
“Mr Barton’s conduct at the Annual General Meeting in October 2019 as CFO of Crown was quite improper. However, his attempts in the witness box on 23 September 2020 to justify his conduct at the Annual General Meeting, were even more inappropriate for the CEO and director of Crown and a director of the Licensee.”
“It demonstrated a serious lack of judgement and insight into the expectation of the highest standards of propriety, candour and co-operation of a director of a company that holds a casino licence.”
Barton Falls On His Sword; Others Follow
Crown has not made an official statement about Barton’s resignation, but the Australian press is reporting it’s happened.
Andrew Demetriou is another Crown board member to hand in his resignation. Demetriou, a non-executive director, resigned on February 11 also.
Begrin singled out Demetriou for criticism after lying about reading from notes while giving evidence at the inquiry.
“This was a most unedifying performance by Mr Demetriou … Unfortunately it reflects very badly on his judgment, first of all to take notes into the witness box (albeit in a virtual setting); then to read from them, but more importantly to deny that he was reading from them.
“It is difficult to understand what might reasonably be made of this quite bizarre performance. Sadly the balance of Mr Demetriou’s evidence is affected by it. The authority would be justified in lacking confidence in placing reliance upon Mr Demetriou in the future.”
Demetriou promised to defend his reputation at every opportunity and called Begrin’s comments unjust.
Harold Mitchell and Guy Jalland resigned on February 10 after the Begrin report published. The report asked Mitchell to explain how he is a suitable person to be an associate of Crown Melbourne. Mitchell, who is subject to a Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation investigation, chose not to comment, skulking off into the night instead.
Both Mitchell and Jalland served as nominees of Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings on the Crown board.
NSW Regulator: Crown Must “Blow Itself Up”
Philip Crawford agreed with suggestions Crown may have to blow itself up to save itself. Those remarks are “pretty close to the mark” said the NSW Independent Liquor (ILGA) and Gaming Authority chair.
Crawford and his ILGA meet on Friday where the Begrin report is the focus. Crown faces the prospect of coming away from the meeting unable to run a casino.
“They’ve got a lot of work to do to satisfy us,” Crawford said.
Cessation of using casino junkets and directors resigning isn’t a coincidence. Crown is in danger of losing its Melbourne licence which would leave the company dead in the water. Is it all a case of too little too late? We don’t have long to wait to find out.