12 James Packer
CLAIMS TO FAME
• Owns controlling stake in Crown Resorts
• Implemented Crown’s revised strategy of focusing on Australian assets
POWER SCORE 1,513 LAST YEAR 9
After more than a decade pursuing his dream of world domination, 2017 will go down as the year James Packer finally conceded defeat.
“We didn’t succeed in a global strategy,” Packer told shareholders after returning to the board of Crown Resorts – the Australian casino operator in which he holds a 48.5% stake – in October. “But in terms of the list of Australian companies that have gone offshore and come back to Australia with their tail between their legs, I think we are at the top of the list because we actually made a couple of billion dollars.”
The 50-year-old was referring first and foremost to Crown’s 13- year partnership with Melco Resorts in Macau, which officially came to an end in May with the sale of its remaining 27.5% interest. Only two years ago Crown was majority partner.
Las Vegas, another of Packer’s long-held ambitions, has also been abandoned with Crown announcing it would sell the parcel of land previously slated for a US$2.5 billion resort called Alon.
But the beginning of the end was undoubtedly the October 2016 arrests of 19 Crown Resorts employees in mainland China. The incident was devastating on multiple fronts, not least of which being the damage it caused to Crown’s reputation worldwide. That it took another eight months for the employees to be sentenced didn’t help either, with 16 ultimately jailed before finally being freed in July.
Exactly what impact the incident will have on Crown’s VIP business long-term remains to be seen, but VIP turnover at its Melbourne and Perth properties fell 48.9% for the 12 months to 30 June 2017.
Packer’s annus horribilis even extended to his personal life, including a high-profile split from fiancée Mariah Carey and the sale of his stake in Hollywood film company RatPac Entertainment, which he and director Brett Ratner formed in 2013.
Yet it’s notable that, despite all the drama, Packer has fallen just three places in this year’s Asian Gaming Power 50 list. Our gut feeling expected a greater fall, but Packer’s power score is boosted by Crown’s strength in Australia, where it retains around 65% of local market share and has now paid off much of its debt, ironically due to the AU$3.1 billion in proceeds the Melco sale generated. As for Packer, he too has declared he will move home as all eyes turn to Crown Sydney, due to launch in 2020.
To return to the full list of 2017 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.