James Packer Resigns From Crown Resorts, Mental Health Issues Cited
There’s more casino-industry news from Down Under, where Crown Resorts’ primary owner, James Packer, has unexpectedly resigned from his seat on the company’s board of directors.
In a very brief statement, Crown Resorts announced Packer’s sudden departure yesterday, offering only this:
Crown Resorts Limited (ASX: CWN) (Crown) announces that James Packer has today resigned as a director for personal reasons.
Crown’s Executive Chairman, John Alexander, said, “We have appreciated James’ contribution to the Board and respect his decision to step down from his role as a director at this time.”
The “personal reasons” cited have a bit more behind them, however. According to an unnamed spokesman for Packer’s personal investment company, “Mr. Packer is suffering from mental health issues. At this time, he intends to step back from all commitments.”
Packer’s name surfaced in gambling-industry circles a few weeks back when he and Crown Resorts sold off the company’s online sports-betting arm, CrownBet, to Canada gaming giant The Stars Group (TSG). Only days later updates emerged showing that the CrownBet sale was part of a larger, three-way deal, in which William Hill also divested its William Hill Australia business to The Stars Group as well.
Australian business pundits honed in on the supposition that TSG wanted to create a new channel for its Australian online-poker interests, since the company’s poker brands, including PokerStars, were forced from the Aussie market a year ago. Those reports, however, missed that the sports-betting portion of TSG’s own business, including the Stars-themed BetStars brand, far outpaces the growth in TSG’s poker offerings.
Also overlooked in the CrownBet deal is the fact that Packer has been divesting himself of many of his corporate holdings over the past couple of years. That includes at least $185 million in Crown Resorts stock, plus his interests in efforts such as RatPac-Dune Entertainment.
Yet billionaire playboy Packer has had a very rough public go of it as well. There was his tabloid-fodder engagement to Mariah Carey, which hit the rocks in late 2016. Carey got a multi-million-dollar settlement when the two split, along with a 35-carat diamond engagement ring worth between $10 and $15 million alone.
Packer has faced far more serious legal entanglements as well. First there was the arrests of roughly two dozen Crown Resorts employees and execs by China over Crown’s junket-focused catering to wealthy Chinese gamblers, a practice in violation of Chinese law. But perhaps worst of all to Packer’s mental health is his ongoing connection to a prominent fraud and corruption scheme involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In 2017, Israeli authorities sought to interview Packer in connection with lavish gifts given to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. Packer also bought a beachfront estate next to one owned by Netanyahu in Caesarea, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. The two were introduced to each other by American film-industry mogul Amon Milchan, who, like Packer, is alleged to have given Netanyahu expensive items.
Israeli outlets have reported Netanyahu is expected to be charged on at least two corruption-related counts. Netanyahu has repeatedly professed his innocence, but would be forced from office if ultimately found guilty of the various “moral turpitude” allegations that have been made against him.