Crown adds new legal counsel and board secretary

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Crown Resorts off the ASX as Blackstone takeover confirmed

Crown Resorts has named a new legal counsel and board member as part of the embattled group’s restructure.

iGamingBusiness reports that Craig Durham is the company’s new secretary and legal counsel, while Anne Ward has been added to the company’s board.

Durham joined the operator on October 4.

“Craig is an accomplished and experienced ASX listed company secretary, lawyer and governance professional with qualifications in Australia and the US, and on behalf of the board of directors and management, we welcome Craig to Crown,” Crown’s interim chairman Jane Halton said.

Meanwhile, Anne Ward will become an independent non-executive director on the Crown board, subject to the receipt of necessary regulatory approvals.

She is currently chair of ASX-listed companies Redbubble and MNF Council and a legal council member at RMIT University.

Ward’s appointment represents Crown’s latest boardroom level change in a year, which included the Victorian government launching an investigation into the business.

That followed an inquiry from the New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority, which deemed Crown unsuitable to obtain a licence for a casino in Barangaroo, Sydney.

The company also appointed a new chairman in August, with Ziggy Switkowski replacing the outgoing Helen Coonan, while Steve McCann became the chief executive of Crown Melbourne, following the departure of Xavier Walsh.

Walsh leaves Crown following doubts raised at royal commission 

His departure followed doubts expressed by directors of the company about his suitability for the role.

In a sign Victoria’s royal commission into Crown could trigger a new round of bloodletting at the beleaguered company, Jane Halton and Toni Korsanos told the inquiry on July 7 that they were concerned chief executive Xavier Walsh had failed to tell them about Crown’s tax issue at meetings in March.

The commission heard explosive evidence on June 7 that Crown had underpaid tax to Victoria since 2012 by making illegal deductions from its poker machine revenue and hid the practice from the state’s gambling regulator.

The regulator and commission only learnt about the practice after a Crown senior manager sent documents to the inquiry by mistake, estimating the tax it could owe, with estimates ranging from $8 million up to $272 million.

Ms Halton and Ms Korsanos, who are two of the three Crown directors to survive last year’s damning NSW Bergin Inquiry into the group, said they were in a Crown board meeting when they received a news article detailing the revelation.

“I, and everybody else that was there, was shocked,” Ms Halton told the commission. Without remembering her exact words at the time, “think of a three letter acronym,” she said.

Mr Walsh, a senior executive at Crown Melbourne since 2013 who was put in charge of the Southbank casino in December 2020, had known since 2018 there had been a potential underpayment of tax and that Crown had hid it from the regulator.

Ms Halton said she was concerned Mr Walsh did not explain the issue at a meeting on March 4, especially given Crown’s board was trying to instil a new culture of “speaking up” about bad behaviour after its Sydney casino licence was suspended in 2020 following damning revelations in the Bergin Inquiry.

Counsel assisting the commission Penny Neskovcin asked whether Ms Halton felt comfortable that “Crown Melbourne was in the right hands while Mr Walsh is the CEO?”

“There are questions here, very definitely, but I have not had the opportunity to talk with him,” Ms Halton said, a former public servant who conducted a review of Australia’s hotel quarantine program for the Morrison government in 2020.

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