Blackstone waits on gaming authorities as Crown shareholders approve $8.9b buyout

Blackstone waits on gaming authorities as Crown shareholders approve $8.9b buyout

Shareholders of Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN) have voted in favour of the scheme of arrangement that will see the Melbourne-based casino operator fall into the hands of private equity group Blackstone Inc (NYSE: BX).

The $8.9 billion buyout was approved by an overwhelming majority of 92 per cent of shareholders, with 99.9 per cent of the votes made in favour of the scheme. However, the deal still requires three gaming regulators to sign off on the acquisition.

Crown chairman Ziggy Switkowski says the deal is expected to be completed in June as Blackstone awaits approvals from the gaming authorities of Victoria, NSW and Western Australia where Crown operates its casinos.

Federal Court approval is also required to complete the deal, pitched at $13.10 per share, but with the delay from regulators still in play, Crown has sought to push the scheduled hearing date from 24 May as planned to June 6 2022.

Once the deal is approved it will mark the end of James Packer’s association with the casino group. When approvals are granted, US-based Blackstone will secure full control of Crown which will then be delisted from the ASX.

Packer is expected to pocket $3.3 billion from the 37 per cent interest he holds in Crown, while also meeting the recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission which wanted the billionaire cut his major shareholding in the company to at least 5 per cent in order to reduce his influence on the group beyond his earlier decision to step away from the casino.

It also brings to a close the Packer dynasty’s interest in Crown which culminated in the merger of Nine Network owner Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) with the casino operator in 1999 – a deal led by Australia’s biggest punter, Kerry Packer.

After the death of his father in 2005, James Packer upped the ante in the gambling industry by offloading PBL’s media assets and expanding his interests in casinos, globally buoyed by Chinese high rollers.

The findings of the Bergin inquiry in NSW and a Royal Commission in Victoria into Crown’s suitability to hold a casino licence added to Packer’s troubled tenure in the industry. The inquiries disclosed cultural failings within Crown that exposed the group to money laundering activities, highlighting James Packer’s influence on the company through his significant shareholding.

 

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