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Packer exit fuels takeover speculation

Business

Billionaire casino mogul James Packer has resigned as a director of Crown Resorts, fuelling speculation that he wants to completely take over Crown.

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Packer’s resignation, which is effective immediately, comes only months after he quit as Crown chairman.

Even though he is no longer on the Crown board, publicity-shy Packer says he will still be involved in Crown’s development projects in Australia and overseas.

And Crown Resorts says that Packer, as Crown’s majority shareholder, can return to the Crown board at some time in the future.

Packer’s private investment company, Consolidated Press Holdings, holds a stake of 53.01 per cent in Crown Resorts.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas says Packer’s resignation from the Crown Resorts board clears the way for Consolidated Press Holdings to try to gain full control of Crown.

“It (the resignation) removes his (Packer’s) conflict of interest if he were to sit on the board and Consolidated Press Holdings were to have a crack (at a takeover),” Lucas said on Monday.

Lucas said Packer had been disappointed with Crown’s financial performance this year, but he (Packer) was still excited about Crown’s future.

“It’s huge, huge part of his life,” Lucas said.

“There is big speculation now that he will have a takeover – that’s why the (Crown) share price rallied last week and why it’s rallying now.”

Crown shares were 39.5 cents, or 3.4 per cent, higher at $11.995 at 1142 AEDT.

Packer resigned as chairman of Crown in August, stepping aside for Robert Rankin.

He said on Monday that he had decided to quit as a director of Crown following a smooth transition by Rankin into the chairman’s role and the stable functioning of the Crown board and management, while Mr Packer spends more of his time overseas.

Packer will still be involved with Crown, devoting his energies to key development projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Las Vegas, and Crown’s online platforms.

“Of course, I remain incredibly passionate about Crown and its world-class integrated resort businesses,” Packer said in a statement.

“Crown is my biggest professional priority and represents the vast majority of my net wealth.”

Packer also said Consolidated Press Holdings had recently concluded a major transaction in his family’s business.

“This also assisted the timing of my decision. Gretel (James Packer’s sister) and I have never been closer.”

James Packer and Gretel Packer recently reached a settlement in finalising the estate of their late father, Kerry Packer, a decade after he died.

Robert Rankin said Packer would continue to have a very active involvement in Crown.

“And, of course, as the major shareholder, it is open to James to return to the Crown board at some time in the future,” Rankin said.

Packer will remain as co-chairman of Crown’s joint venture, Melco Crown Entertainment, which operates casinos in Macau and Manila.

– AAP

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