Barton resigns as Crown CEO following NSW inquiry

Ken Barton has stepped down as chief executive of Australian land-based operator Crown Resorts after inquiry into the operator’s activity found it “unsuitable” to operate a casino in Sydney’s Barangaroo region.


Helen Coonan, who moves from chairman to executive chairman, will take over leadership of Crown while its board looks for Barton’s replacement.

“I would like to thank Ken for his dedication and commitment to Crown,” Coonan said. “Ken joined Crown more than a decade ago and has played an invaluable role with the business, initially as CFO and in the past year as CEO. Ken has always put the interests of Crown first.”

Barton resigned following an inquiry that found evidence of money laundering and insufficient diligence into junkets with alleged criminal ties. It said that Crown’s “unjustified belief in itself” and “corporate arrogance” led to a lack of thorough investigation of serious claims against its business and an assumption that the claims must have been deceitful.

This report was triggered when Asian gaming giant Melco agreed to purchase a 19.99% stake in CPH Crown Holdings in May 2019 for approximately AUD$1.76bn (£981.9m/€1.06bn/US$1.19bn). Following allegations in the press, the inquiry set out to determine whether Crown was a suitavble licensee.

Although Melco ultimately pulled out of the acquisition, the inquiry continued with its results released last week.

Coonan said that allowing her to lead the business while it replaces Barton would offer some much-needed stability.

“Assuming the role of executive chairman is a decision I have not taken lightly but the board feels it provides leadership stability and certainty at this important time for the business,” she said.

While the report found that Crown was not suitable in its current form to operate the casino, it determined that it may still do so if it underwent certain changes. These included avoiding dealing with junkets unless they are licensed by the Authority, a full audit of accounts, as well as a compliance audit, and a restructuring of Crown’s board.

Coonan added that the operator was taking efforts to ensure it is compliant with all recommendations from the inquiry and its own internal reform programme.

The board is determined to maintain the momentum as Crown takes significant steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture,” she said. “Working closely with the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and regulators in Victoria and Western Australia, I will continue to lead on implementation of Crown’s ambitious reform program.”

Barton said he was sure the operator was now on a solid path as it implemented these changes.

“I would like to thank the Crown Directors for the opportunity to work with them on implementing Crown’s strategy,” Barton said. “Over the past 10 years, Crown has established itself as a great Australian company with world-class assets and I am absolutely certain the business is now on the right path as it works to restore confidence in its operations.

“I am committed to assisting with the transition to new leadership.”

Barton - who took over as chief executive after John Alexander resigned in January 2020 and served as CFO since 2010 - will continue to receive the entitlements agreed in his employment contract. This includes a fixed renumeration of AUD$3m per year.