James Packer has resigned as a director of Crown Resorts effective immediately.
The move follows reports that the billionaire is in talks to return some of Crown Resorts’s assets to private ownership.
Packer, who owns a majority holding in Crown and is now based in Los Angeles where his three children live, stepped down as chairman in August.
In early trade, Crown shares were up 5% to $12.19 on the news. Crown has added about 15% since reports of a privatisation surfaced last week.
Packer gave media interviews at the weekend but would not discuss his reported look at privatising some of the casinos.
“The 48-year-old would not discuss the ongoing negotiations but said he remained confident his gamble on large investments in casinos is the right call,” the Sydney Morning Herald said.
The Australian newspaper reported that Packer is examining plans to partner with a private equity firm or global pension fund to reduce Crown’s debt and de-list the business.
Packer also expressed frustration at planning approval delays in building Sydney’s second casino at Barangaroo.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” he told Fairfax Media. “It’s been a marathon process to get where we are in Sydney, we proposed the hotel almost four years ago and we are miles behind our opening date schedule. At our end we really want to get moving.”
Today Packer said he decided to leave the Crown board entirely following the smooth transition by Rob Rankin into the company chairman role.
“Now is the right time for me to focus my endeavours on my new role with Crown, as I outlined to shareholders when I stepped aside as Chairman in August,” Packer said.
“I intend to devote my energies to a number of key development projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Las Vegas as well as Crown’s online platforms.”
When he resigned as chairman, Packer said he would remain on as a senior executive on terms to be discussed with the board.
Packer will also remain co-chairman of both Melco Crown Entertainment and the Alon Resort project in Las Vegas.
“Of course, I remain incredibly passionate about Crown and its world-class integrated resort businesses,” Packer said. “Crown is my biggest professional priority and represents the vast majority of my net wealth.”
Crown’s earnings have been dragged down by a weak market in Macau because of a Chinese government crackdown on black money being washed through casinos.
The latest results show full year normalised net profit down 17.9% to $525.5 million.
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