SYDNEY, Nov 5 (Reuters) - An Australian regulator should
reconsider its approval of billionaire James Packer as a
registered associate of casino company Crown Resorts Ltd
due to his "adverse impact on its good governance", an
inquiry heard on Thursday.
The comments came in a closing statement from the lawyer
running an inquiry into whether Crown should be allowed to
operate a casino in a new, 75-floor tower on the Sydney
waterfront that it has spent A$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion)
building and plans to open next month.
Though the summing-up remarks are not binding, they raise
the chances the inquiry will seek to separate Packer from the
company he founded in 2007.
The retired judge overseeing it is due to give formal
recommendations by February, and may call for Packer to sell
down his one-third stake at a time when Crown shares are in the
doldrums due to coronavirus shutdowns.
The inquiry was called by the casino regulator of New South
Wales state after media reports accused Crown of dealing with
gambling tour - or "junket" - operators with links to organised
crime to bring Chinese high rollers to its current flagship
asset in Melbourne.
After initially denying the reports in full-page newspaper
advertisements, Crown acknowleged in hearings that it had
continued relationships with junkets suspected of wrongdoing,
before suspending them in September. It has also ended a special
agreement to give Packer special access to trading information.
In hearings, Packer acknowledged receiving frequent trading
updates and giving strategic instructions despite holding no
role at the company other than shareholder, and threatening
business associates as he sought, unsuccessfully, to take the
"You should recommend to the (casino) authority that it
reconsider its approval of Mr Packer as a close associate of the
licencee with regard to his conduct," the lawyer running the
hearings, Adam Bell, told the inquiry.
Packer had, in hearings, cited mental illness as a reason
for sending threatening emails to an unnamed business associate,
but "there's been no medical evidence presented to this inquiry
by Mr Packer to support a causal connection between his
conduct... and bipolar disorder or any other medical condition",
Bell said on Thursday.
"The evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that Mr
Packer's profound influence ... had an adverse impact on its
good governance, and culture and accountability."
The hearing continues.
($1 = 1.3947 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)