Under-fire Crown Resorts CEO set to resign
Under-fire Crown Resorts CEO Ken Barton is understood to have agreed to resign his role following a meeting with chair Helen Coonan on Thursday, amid criticism from the NSW and Victorian gaming regulators over his suitability in light of findings against him in the Bergin report on the James Packer-backed company.
But The Australian understands that similarly embattled Crown director Andrew Demetriou is clinging on to his position, despite his suitability also being called into question by the regulators and the Bergin report.
The resignation of Mr Barton, who was singled out in the Bergin report for failing to prevent money being laundered through company accounts, comes just after the Head of The Victorian gaming regulator, Catherine Myers, said she would seek an explanation from the pair as to why they believed their positions were tenable.
Head of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation Catherine Myers had said earlier on Thursday they would write to Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou to demand they explain how they can remain suitable associates of the Packer-backed company after a NSW inquiry heavily criticised their conduct.
It comes as the Head of the NSW Gaming regulator Philip Crawford on Thursday morning declared unequivocally that the pair must step down from their roles, after The Australian revealed that the under-fire executives were digging in their heels.
Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou were heavily criticised in the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority's report into the company's suitability to operate its Sydney Casino at Barangaroo.
But despite major shareholder James Packer heeding the criticism of the report directed at him, and immediately relinquishing control of the board through the resignation of two nominee directors and the severance of ties with a third, Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou have so far refused to resign.
In a statement, the Victorian Commission for Liquor and Gaming Regulation said Ms Myers yesterday advised Crown chair Helen Coonan and Crown Melbourne CEO Xavier Walsh that "the VCGLR will shortly write to Crown Resorts managing director and chief executive officer, Mr Ken Barton and the chair of Crown Melbourne Ltd, Mr Andrew Demetriou and demand they explain why they remain suitable to be an associate of Crown Melbourne.
"Under the Victorian Casino Control Act, associates of the casino operator must be of good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity," the statement said.
"Demanding an explanation is the mandatory first step of our regulatory action. The Commission will consider the submissions of Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou and determine what action to take."
It's understood Mr Barton flew from Melbourne to Sydney on Thursday morning to meet Ms Coonan after a meeting of the board last night failed to resolve the situation.
It is also understood that Mr Barton has hired independent legal counsel to advise him over his future at Crown.
Ms Coonan committed to a "root and branch" reform of the company in an ASX statement on Thursday, but did not mention the future of Mr Barton or Demetriou.
She has been working cooperatively with ILGA's Mr Crawford, who earlier on Thursday told the ABC that Mr Demetriou and Barton must step down.
"There need to be changes in the top and in senior management," Mr Crawford said.
"A lot of board changes, and that's started already and we look forward to seeing a bit more of that."
Mr Crawford also said it was possible the regulator would push for executive renewal beyond the individuals specifically named in the report and said the VCGLR and the WA Gaming Regulator had reached out to him to discuss the report.
The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority board will convene for a special meeting to discuss what aspects of the 800 page report to endorse to the NSW government on Friday.
The increasing regulatory scrutiny comes as S&P Global Ratings placed Crown Resorts on negative credit watch on Wednesday night.
"We placed the ratings on Crown on CreditWatch with negative implications because we believe the findings of the NSW Casino Inquiry heighten the risk of permanent licence loss for Crown Sydney and its operations," S&P analysts said.
"Further, we believe the decision presents additional risk for the upcoming regulatory reviews of Crown's established gaming facilities across Melbourne and Perth, which underpin the group's cash flows and credit quality."
Crown Resorts shares closed at $10.10, up 2.5 per cent.
Originally published as Under-fire Crown Resorts CEO set to resign