Packer did not direct Crown executives, says former chairman

Crown Resort’s former executive chairman John Alexander has denied that James Packer was directly instructing the casino operator’s executives.

In testimony to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry on Friday, the longstanding Packer family lieutenant said, “No, I don’t accept that”.

“James has always been strong with his views, but they rarely led to direct actions in terms of personnel doing specific things.”

John Alexander at the NSW Crown inquiry this week.
John Alexander at the NSW Crown inquiry this week.

The ILGA inquiry, which has the same powers as a royal commission, was launched to examine the revelations of last year’s media reports as well as whether an agreement by major shareholder James Packer last year to sell a 19.9 per cent of the shares in Crown to Hong Kong group Melco breached Crown’s NSW casino licence.


Commissioner Patricia Bergin, SC, will report on whether Crown should be able to keep the licence for its new Barangaroo casino, which is set to open in December, or what changes Crown will need to make in order to make it suitable to operate its $2.2 billion gambling mecca.

The inquiry on Friday was told of an email request from Mr Packer for Mr Alexander to review Crown forecasts and ensure they were correct. Mr Alexander was asked if this was an instruction to him.

“In a broad sense yes,” he replied.

In another email Mr Alexander told Mr Packer he needed the board to back him with his own cost-cutting measures, to which Packer responded: “I’m over being captain good guy to everyone, go hard my good friend you have my blessing”.

Under questioning Mr Alexander agreed that Mr Packer was providing some “indirect” instruction to him in the emails, but denied Mr Packer was keeping close control over management from outside the company.

“There’s an interchange like this but it was not happening on anything like a regular basis,” Alexander said.

‘I’m over being captain good guy to everyone, go hard my good friend you have my blessing.’

James Packer to John Alexander in an email

Mr Alexander was the ASX-listed group’s deputy chairman from 2007 to 2017 and then its executive chairman until January this year when he stood down following a series of reports by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes about Crown’s relationships with organised crime-linked “junket” operators and the risks it exposed its staff to in China.

The inquiry heard of an email Mr Alexander sent to Mr Packer “to discuss the nonsense” allegations.

Mr Alexander said Crown still disagrees with the core allegations from the media reports but said “I could have chosen my language better I agree with that” when asked if he still regards them as nonsense.

Mr Alexander, the former Herald and Australian Financial Review editor-in-chief, remains a director of Crown but will stand down at the end of the company’s annual meeting on October 22.

Mr Packer is due to give testimony to the inquiry on Tuesday.

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