Billionaire James Packer has stood down as chairman of Crown Resorts so he can spend more time in the United States, where his children live, and focus on the casino group’s global expansion.
In a surprise announcement, Mr Packer, who is also Crown’s largest shareholder, relinquished his role so he can dedicate more time to the group’s expansion plans, especially in Asia and the gaming hub of Las Vegas.
He will remain on the board as a senior executive director and co-chairman of Crown’s Asian joint-venture, Melco Crown Entertainment.
Chief executive Rowen Craigie said Mr Packer was devoted to developing Crown into a global luxury brand.
“To do that, he will have to spend increasing amounts overseas,” Mr Craigie told reporters.
Asked where Mr Packer would be based, Mr Craigie said: “His children are in Los Angeles, so you expect he would spend some time there, but that’s really a question you would want to direct to Mr Packer.”
Mr Packer and his former wife Erica Baxter have three children: Indigo, 7; Jackson, 5; and Emmanuelle, 2.
Their six-year marriage ended in 2013, with the billionaire having since been linked to Mariah Carey, the American pop megastar who is in the middle of an nine-month residency at the famous Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
While Mr Packer insists he is dedicated to the Australian-based Crown, he does appear to be loosening ties with his homeland.
He and his former wife set a new Australian property record in early August when they sold their Vaucluse mansion in Sydney’s east for more than $60 million.
Mr Packer reportedly bought a home in Israel earlier this year and has other ties in LA through his investment in Hollywood director Brett Ratner’s production company, RatPac Entertainment.
Mr Craigie said the Crown board had accepted Mr Packer’s recommendation that recently-appointed director Robert Rankin, a Hong-Kong based investment banker, replace him as chairman.
Now free of his chairman’s duties, Mr Packer will focus on developing the Crown brand in Asia and at the group’s planned resort in Las Vegas, and also concentrate on Crown’s emerging online gaming strategy.
“Crown remains my number one business priority and passion,” Mr Packer said in a statement.
He said he was deeply committed to Crown’s planned six-star resort and VIP casino at Barangaroo in Sydney.
“No project is more important to me,” Mr Packer said.
Meanwhile Crown has acquired a 50 per cent stake in part of one of Australia’s most famous rural properties, Ellerston in NSW’s Upper Hunter Valley, from Mr Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings Group for $60 million.
James Packer’s media mogul father, Kerry Packer, who died in 2005, is buried at Ellerston.
The acquisition does not include the part of Ellerston on which the agricultural business is conducted.
The part of Ellerston in which Crown has acquired a stake comprises about 1,400 hectares and includes luxury accommodation, one of Australia’s top-three golf courses,a go-cart track, shooting range, horse riding, swimming pools and a cinema.
Mr Craigie said the Ellerston facilities would be made available to high-end VIP gamblers.
“The return (to Crown) is through attracting them to Australia as opposed to them going to Las Vegas or Singapore or elsewhere,” Mr Craigie said.
“It’s like private jets, boats, golf courses, etcetera – it’s part of the cost of running an international VIP operation.”