In Australia and an official inquiry into the casino license suitability of Crown Resorts Limited has reportedly been told how the firm’s largest shareholder was seemingly unconcerned about allegations a potential investor may have held business links with former Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung Sun.
According to a Monday report from The Guardian newspaper, billionaire businessman James Packer (pictured) holds a 46% stake in the operator behind the Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth properties via his Consolidated Press Holdings Proprietary Limited vehicle and last year okayed a deal that was to have seen Hong Kong-headquartered Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited acquire a 19.9% share of this interest for approximately $1.2 billion.
However, the prospect that this since-cancelled arrangement could be completed reportedly prompted the gaming regulator for New South Wales to launch an official investigation into whether such a move would violate Crown Resorts Limited’s licensing conditions for its under-construction Crown Sydney development. The New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority was purportedly concerned by the fact that Ho was suspected of having links to organized crime groups and had held an unspecified stake in Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited via his Great Respect Limited enterprise.
The Guardian reported that Great Respect Limited is on a list of firms that are banned from investing in New South Wales casinos due to allegations that Ho, who passed away in May at the age of 98, alongside other associated individuals possibly had long-standing links to triad organizations in Macau. Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited is moreover purportedly controlled by Ho’s son, 44-year-old Hong Kong entrepreneur Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, although the newspaper was at pains to make clear that there is no suggestion this latter figure has any such dubious connections.
In giving evidence to the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority on Monday, the Finance Director for Consolidated Press Holdings Proprietary Limited, Michael Johnston, reportedly detailed that he had flown to Los Angeles in May of last year so as to discuss the proposed transaction with 53-year-old Packer. The executive purportedly explained that he had expressed his uneasiness about the suggested deal to his boss but later received a text message that read ‘Mike, it’s my life and I’m going to overrule you.’
Johnston, who additionally serves as a director for Crown Resorts Limited, reportedly stated that he had subsequently telephoned the Melbourne-based casino firm’s then-Executive Chairman, John Alexander, to inform him of the decision to proceed with the arrangement. He purportedly told the inquiry that Alexander ‘didn’t sound happy with the news’ despite the prospect that ‘he would have benefited quite handsomely under his executive remuneration plans.’