Packer insisted on Melco deal

Crown Resorts director and Consolidated Press Holdings executive Michael Johnston giving evidence at the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority probity inquiry into the casino group on Friday, September 25, 2020  

Michael Johnston, a Crown director and government at Mr Packer’s non-public firm Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH), advised the inquiry on Monday he introduced Mr Packer with a lot of totally different choices to promote some or all of his 46 per cent stake in Crown in May final yr.

However by May 23, Mr Packer had settled on a sale to Melco, telling Mr Johnston by way of textual content message: “Mike, it’s my life and I’m going to overrule you”, the inquiry heard.

Mr Johnston advised the inquiry he phoned Crown’s then-executive chairman John Alexander late on the evening of May 30 to tell him of the Melco deal. Mr Alexander had simply stepped off a aircraft in Los Angeles, the place Mr Packer lives, and “didn’t sound happy with the news”.

Crown Resorts director and Consolidated Press Holdings government Michael Johnston giving proof on the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority probity inquiry into the on line casino group on Friday, September 25, 2020  

He stated that was as a result of the deal was a partial sale of Mr Packer’s shares relatively than a full takeover of Crown which Mr Packer had beforehand mentioned with US on line casino group Wynn Resorts.

“His [Mr Alexander’s] voice was very flat, which is understandable because if we had something like the Wynn transaction, he would have benefited quite handsomely under his executive remuneration plans, given he had [share] options,” Mr Johnston stated.

Mr Alexander stood down as government chairman in January following a sequence of stories on this masthead about Crown’s partnerships with organised crime-linked “junket” tour operators, however he stays a director of the corporate.

The inquiry heard Mr Johnston was conscious that Stanley Ho had been concerned with the Melco group of firms, stemming from Crown’s Asian three way partnership with Melco which it exited in 2017.

Despite that, Mr Johnston stated he didn’t inform Crown’s administration nor his fellow Crown administrators concerning the sale so they may take into account any potential dangers to its licence, and nor did he examine whether or not Stanley Ho was concerned in Melco on the time.

Commissioner Patricia Bergin, SC, requested Mr Johnston that given he knew the NSW authorities and state playing regulator had been involved concerning the Macau on line casino tycoon for a few years, “wouldn’t it have been a very good idea to check whether Stanley did have an interested in Melco?”

“There was no suggestion that Stanley had any interest in Melco Resorts…. based on our knowledge from that time, so there was nothing putting me on notice,” Mr Johnston stated.

He acknowledged although there was no method for him to know what had occurred to Melco’s possession because the three way partnership dissolved in 2017. “We thought we took the right advice at the time,” Mr Johnston stated. “With the benefit of hindsight I think that perhaps we should have looked more deeply”.

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry has the identical powers as a royal fee and is contemplating whether or not Crown ought to maintain the licence to its Barangaroo on line casino, which is because of open in December.

Melco offered the primary 9.99 per cent of Crown shares it purchased from Mr Packer after the inquiry was introduced, whereas the second 9.99 per cent tranche of the deal by no means modified palms.

Mr Packer, Mr Alexander and different Crown administrators have been known as to provide proof this week.

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