SYDNEY, AAP – Casino operator Crown is certain to be hit by a second strike against its 2021 executive remuneration report but shareholders look set to vote against spilling the company’s newly constituted board.
Shareholders had raised concerns over large termination benefits paid to senior executives who left the company – including former CEO Ken Barton and Australian Resorts CEO Barry Felstead – following the NSW Bergin inquiry earlier this year, which found Crown unsuitable to hold a NSW casino licence due to poor corporate governance.
“Based on valid proxies received prior to the meeting, and the number of shareholders attending, it appears that more than 25 per cent of the votes cast are against the resolution, and we will receive a second strike,” interim chair Jane Halton told shareholders at Crown’s virtual annual general meeting on Thursday.
A strike is recorded against a company’s remuneration report when at least 25 per cent of shareholders vote against it.
Last year, 34 per cent of Crown’s shareholders voted against the 2020 pay report. Two years of consecutive strikes triggers a vote to spill the board.
However, shareholders are on Thursday set to vote against a subsequent resolution to spill the company’s newly-constituted board.
Final voting numbers will be declared later on Thursday.
The resolution was brought forward on a conditional basis after more than 30 per cent of proxies set to vote against Crown’s remuneration report.
Ten of the 11 directors present at the 2020 AGM have left or will leave Crown, including former executive chairman Helen Coonan, following the group’s continuing struggle with regulatory issues.
The gaming group is facing an ongoing royal commission in Western Australia and awaiting the release of the final report of another royal commission in Victoria.
The Victorian inquiry was examining whether Crown should be able to keep its Melbourne casino licence, and while its report has been handed to the state government it has not been publicly released.
An earlier NSW inquiry found Crown was unsuitable to run its newly built casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo.
“The 2021 financial year ranks as one of the most challenging in Crown’s history,” Ms Halton said in a speech to shareholders earlier on Thursday.
She warned Crown is still facing uncertainty due to regulatory issues and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic after one of the worst years in its history.
Major shareholder and billionaire James Packer is due to appear before the WA inquiry examining whether Crown should retain its Perth casino licence on October 29.
Heads have already rolled at Crown in the wake of the inquiries.
Crown Melbourne’s chief executive Xavier Walsh stepped down in August and former Howard government minister Ms Coonan has left as company chair. There have been multiple changes to board members.
Crown this week confirmed Steve McCann as its new CEO and managing director. Mr McCann will move to Melbourne and take on the additional role of CEO of Crown Melbourne.
Mr McCann acknowledged Crown’s disappointing $260 million net loss for 2020/21, saying COVID-19 issues were continuing to hamper its 2021/22 performance.
“I am realistic about the pressures we are facing in the short term,” he said on Thursday.