James Packer, an Australian billionaire that was recently caught up in a corruption scandal tied to the prime minister of Israel, decided to step down as the director of Crown Resorts. This casino company is the source of the majority of his wealth,
Crown Resorts statement simply stated personal reasons for his decision. However, an investment company that is also controlled and owned by Mr Packer, Consolidated Press Holdings, listed mental health issues as the reason for the departure. The statement from this company stated that he plans to step back from all of his commitments. As one of the richest men in the country, Mr Packer was a famous globe-trotter.
He was engaged to Mariah Carey and managed to create a Hollywood film company along with Brett Ratner. Yet, he recently ended up in the midst of a corruption case that involves Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli police are looking into gifts including jewellery, expensive cigars, and abundance of champagne that were exchanged in Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. Mr Packer was one of his patrons and clearly a person that always responded to Mr Netanyahu demands.
The case is still an active investigation, but it is clear that Mr Packer was recently active in a process of asset shedding. He sold a vacant lot in Las Vegas in December, where a major casino was planned to be built. Just a month ago, he sold his about 75 million American and 100 million Australian dollars of his shares in the Crown Resorts. Right now, Mr Packer’s stake in the casino remains valued at about four billion AUS dollars.
The 50-year-old is currently the owner of about 47% of Crown Resorts. This is the biggest casino company outside of China, but it was recently hit by a string of allegations about its poker machines. The allegations state these machines were fixed and that the company encourages gambling at its Melbourne casino. The company has denied any wrongdoing. Crown was also named in a class-action back in December. The lawsuit claims that the company did not share information with its shareholders about its activities. This resulted in several of its members being arrested and a 15% drop in its share prices.
In China, employees of Crown Resorts were detained on the suspicion of “gambling crimes”. The arrested included Jason O’Connor who was tasked with attracting wealthy gamblers. This sent shockwaves through the entire industry, ramping up fears that the government of China would go after casino operators that are based overseas. The same was felt in Australia, where previous issues were raised about the country’s dependence on the Chinese state. Just in June, three Australian employees were sentenced by a court in Shanghai to an about a year in jail each. The charge was the illegal promotion of gambling in the country. 13 additional employees, 12 of which were Chinese and one Malaysian, received sentences in the same range.
Mr Packer is the son of Kerry Packer, a media mogul who became Australia’s richest man. He managed to get to this position by transforming an inheritance of a television and magazine business worth millions into an empire of diverse ventures valued in billions. This is why Kerry Packer, who passed away back in 2005, was often compared to Rupert Murdoch, another media mogul.
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