James Packer has quit casinos operator Crown Resorts’ board in a surprise move as the billionaire takes time out to deal with mental health issues.
“Mr Packer is suffering from mental health issues,” Mr Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings – Crown’s largest shareholder – said in a statement.
“At this time he intends to step back from all commitments.”
CPH issued the brief statement shortly after Crown had announced Mr Packer’s departure for “personal reasons”.
Mr Packer will stand down from the board of Crown and as chairman of CPH, which holds a 47.2 per cent stake in the casino operator.
It is understood that Mr Packer’s resignation decision was sudden and made independently after he realised he had been unwell for some time.
Mr Packer, who is currently in the US, intends to take a complete break from work commitments to regain his health.
The billionaire had resigned from Crown’s board in late 2015 and only resumed a directorship in August last year.
Crown will remain in the control of trusted executive chairman John Alexander, who has overseen Crown’s improved performance since the company refocused closer to home following the detention of Crown employees in China in late 2016.
Mr Alexander said Crown appreciated Mr Packer’s contribution to the board and respected his decision to step down.
In an interview with The Australian newspaper in October, 2017, the scion of media tycoon Kerry Packer acknowledged that he had always been shy and never liked the enormous amount of publicity he attracted.
“Most of it is negative. And you get gun-shy of getting hit,” Mr Packer said in the interview.
As well as dealing with the abandonment of Crown’s international ambitions in the wake of the China detentions, Mr Packer was in the spotlight over his engagement to, and subsequent break-up from, singer Mariah Carey.
His residence in Israel and questioning – as a witness and with no allegations of wrongdoing – during an investigation of bribery allegations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have also generated headlines.
Lucas Review market strategist Evan Lucas said the impact of Mr Packer’s departure may not have a large impact on Crown shares given Mr Packer was departing Crown for health reasons.
“He was a big personality associated with the direction and the drive of Crown,” Mr Lucas said.
Shares in Crown were 22.5 cents, or 1.7 per cent, lower at $12.85 at 1513 AEDT.
Mr Packer first stepped down as a director in December, 2015 to focus on development projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Las Vegas, as well as Crown’s online platforms.
The casino mogul returned to the board in January last year, as part of one of several leadership changes that followed Crown’s decision to exit Macau and focus on its Australian assets.
Mental health awareness organisation beyondblue said anyone can be affected by mental health issues.
“When anyone – including a high-profile person – is prepared to talk publicly about these matters, it encourages others to have the conversation,” beyondblue chief executive Georgie Harman said on Wednesday.
Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.