Crown hands out millions in payouts to former top executives

By Noah Taylor Updated
Switkowski passes regulatory hurdles to become Crown chairman

Crown Resorts has dished out almost $10 million in termination payouts to three of its top executives who have recently left the business.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the James Packer-backed group gave former chief executive Ken Barton a $3.4 million golden handshake following his resignation in February, according to Crown’s annual report.

In her damning findings that Crown was unfit to hold its Sydney casino licence, former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin said that Mr Barton was “no match for what is needed” at the group after evidence emerged he failed to act on evidence of money laundering in company bank accounts.

Mr Barton’s take home pay for the 2021 financial year, including his $1.9 million salary, was $5.4 million, the report said.

He also received an extra $1.4 million for his accrued annual and long-service leave, bringing his pay for the year to $6.7 million.

Crown put Mr Barton on a six-month “consultancy” contract after his resignation to assist with “transition arrangements” and the ongoing inquiries into Crown’s licences, but the annual report does not disclose how much he was paid for this.

Crown said Mr Barton remained eligible to exercise options over 8.5 million shares in the subsidiary company Crown Digital in December 2022, at a price of $1.45 each because he was a “good leaver” when he exited the company.

Packer offsider takes home big pay packet

Barry Felstead, a long-time offsider to major shareholder James Packer who was criticised in the Bergin inquiry over the arrest of 19 Crown staff in China on gambling crimes in 2017, was handed a $3.2 million exit package, bringing his pay for the year to $4.4 million.

Leave entitlements boosted that to $7 million.

Meanwhile, Crown’s president of strategy and development Todd Nisbet, who was responsible for overseeing the construction of Crown’s new tower at Sydney’s Barangaroo and faced accusations of workplace bullying in 2020, got a $3.1 million payout, boosting his take home pay for the year to $6.2 million. 

That jumped to $7.6 million with his leave entitlements.

Long-standing Crown boss John Alexander also stood down as executive chairman in January 2020, but was paid $2 million to stay on for another 12 months as an executive director, the report said.

He didn’t get a termination payment, but cashed in $1.7 million worth of leave entitlements.

Coonan departs, Switkowski announced as replacement

Helen Coonan, who served as executive chairman for part of the year after Mr Barton’s departure and resigned in late August after coming in for heavy criticism at Victoria’s royal commission into Crown, took home $1.3 million.

Ziggy Switkowski will take over from Coonan, pending regulatory approvals.

Switkowski was most recently a chair of NBN Co and chancellor of Melbourne’s RMIT University.

He was formerly the boss of telcos Telstra and Optus. 

The high-profile businessman recently announced he would leave RMIT at the end of October, just days after the union for Australian tertiary education staff called for him to resign over his appointment as chair of Crown two weeks ago.

Crown’s annual report said that no short-term bonuses were paid and all options under its long-term incentive plan lapsed.

Victoria’s royal commission into Crown’s Melbourne casino licence is expected to report back to the state government by October 15.

A separate royal commission in WA is set to run until March 2022.

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