James Packer leaves the Crown Resorts AGM at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, on Thursday 26 October 2017. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/AAP
James Packer leaves the Crown Resorts AGM at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, on Thursday 26 October 2017. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

Packer resigns company over ‘mental health issues’

BILLIONAIRE James Packer has resigned as a director of his company Crown Resorts for "personal reasons".

The company announced the move in a brief statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Wednesday.

"We have appreciated James' contribution to the Board and respect his decision to step down from his role as a director at this time," executive chairman John Alexander said.

In a statement, a spokesman for Mr Packer's private investment company Consolidated Press Holdings said, "Mr Packer is suffering from mental health issues. At this time he intends to step back from all commitments."

It comes amid a tumultuous time for the casino mogul, who has been tied to a corruption scandal engulfing the Israeli prime minister.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been investigated for receiving lavish gifts from businessmen including Mr Packer. Israeli police last month recommended Mr Netanyahu be indicted in two cases of alleged corruption.

Mr Packer was among those mentioned in the case, although there was no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part.

Last year, Chinese authorities arrested 19 Crown employees in Shanghai for allegedly chasing high roller gamblers. Crown sold its interests in joint-venture casinos in Macau soon after and was fined $1.67 million by the Chinese government.

In December, Mr Packer sold more than $100 million worth of Crown shares to keep his stake in the company at around 47 per cent, according to a statement to the ASX earlier this month.

At the same time, it emerged Victoria's gambling regulator had launched disciplinary proceedings over Crown's trial of "blanking buttons" on its poker machines.

The Victorian Gambling Commission said Crown might have broken the law over the use of the buttons, which essentially reduce player options, over a three-week period between March and April last year.

Crown said in a statement to the ASX that the matter related to 17 of the casino's 2628 machines. "The Commission's view is that the trial involved varying a gaming machine type and certain games in a manner that required the commission's prior approval," the company wrote," it said.

"Crown Melbourne's position is that the trial did not require prior approval, and therefore there has been no contravention of the (Gambling Regulation Act)."

Crown subsequently stressed that the "disciplinary proceedings" referred to by the Commission were "a reference to its prescribed administrative process" and that "no court proceedings have been issued against Crown Melbourne in relation to this matter".

The son of late media mogul Kerry Packer, James Packer has an estimated net worth of $3.9 billion, ranking him among the top 10 wealthiest people in the country.



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