Crown CEO Ken Barton resigns, and may walk away with up to $60 million

  • Crown CEO Ken Barton has resigned after an inquiry showed it had failed to stem money laundering.
  • The Bergin Inquiry found Barton was “no match” for what’s needed at the helm of a casino licensee.
  • Barton may walk away with up to $60 million (AUD 77 million) in compensation.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Crown’s top executive could not survive a damning inquiry that found regulators could not have confidence in the company under his stewardship.

CEO and managing director Ken Barton stepped down on Monday after Crown was hung out to dry by an inquiry that found its Sydney operation wasn’t suitable to hold a casino license at this time.

“I am absolutely certain the business is now on the right path as it works to restore confidence in its operations.

I am committed to assisting with the transition to new leadership,” Barton said in a statement to the ASX.

While Barton was given a fairly congratulatory send-off by Helen Coonan, who assumes the role of executive chairman while the company searches for a new CEO, the remarks don’t square with the inquiry’s parting shots.

Former Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin, who led it, wrote in her final report that that the gaming regulator “would be justified in concluding that it cannot have any confidence in dealing with Mr. Barton as a director of the Licensee or Crown.”

A damaged Crown Casino sign adorns the side of the casino in Melbourne on August 19, 2020 as its parent company Crown Resorts recorded a full-year net profit fall of 80 percent due to a COVID-19 coronavirus forced closure. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Crown will now face a “full and wide-ranging forensic audit.

Getty Images / WILLIAM WEST / Contributor

Despite that damning appraisal and the fact it compelled Barton to leave, Coonan described Barton as having been “invaluable” and having “always put the interests of Crown first.”

He will at any rate jump from Crown with his golden parachute intact. Barton will leave with more than 143,000 Crown shares valued at roughly $1.08 million (AUD 1.4 million) and over 11.5 million options.

While three million of those carry an exercise price of $8.89 (AUD 11.43), well above today’s trading price, the remaining 8.5 million can be bought at $1.13 (AUD 0.88).

If those are ordinary shares, and Crown lets Barton have them — there’s no indication so far it won’t — he potentially would be able to sell them for a whopping $72.6 million profit.

At any rate, with a 12-month termination period, Barton will likely pocket his $3.3 million pay packet this year anyway.

In sum, Barton could end up walking away from Crown with over $77 million, having served ten years as CFO before assuming the top job.

That’s not bad for someone singled out by Bergin as “no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino licensee.”

Barton is the fourth Crown director to fall

Barton is the latest in a series of scalps taken by the Bergin Inquiry.

Since the final report was made public last week, no fewer than four directors have left Crown including former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou and two close Packer associates, Michael Johnson and Guy Jalland.

A fifth, John Poynton, is fighting to remain after severing ties with Packer’s private company Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) in a bid to deal with apparent conflicts of interest.

With Barton’s departure likely to be the last of the executive clearing house, Crown will now face a “full and wide-ranging forensic audit … to ensure that the casino operations are free from criminal influence and exploitation.”

As long as it keeps it together throughout, the Sydney casino could well be requited with its license sooner rather than later.

Crown has been contacted for comment.

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