A well-known Australian businessman will take the helm at embattled Crown Resorts (ASX: CWN), replacing Helen Coonan who led the company through a tumultuous 18 months for the hotel and casino giant.
Former Telstra CEO Dr Ziggy Switkowski will soon step into the role, with non-executive director Jane Halton acting as interim chairman while regulatory approvals are sought.
The orderly departure of Coonan happened as planned after Crown previously indicated she would step down as soon as a new chair was found.
Coonan, who was appointed at the beginning of 2020, was executive chairman of the company through three different Royal Commissions and spearheaded a “transformation” process in an attempt to fix cultural and compliance issues at the group.
The inquiry in New South Wales resulted in the state’s gaming watchdog determining Crown was not suitable to hold a casino licence, inspiring similar investigations into the company in Victoria and Western Australia.
Coonan’s replacement is an experienced corporate leader, having held roles as chairman and non-executive director of ASX-listed companies and national organisations following an executive career which included CEO appointments at Telstra and Optus.
Based in Melbourne, Dr Switkowski is currently non-executive Chairman of NBN Co and Chancellor of RMIT University.
Coonan said it was a privilege to lead Crown over the 1.5 years that she was executive chair.
“It has been a privilege to serve on the Crown board and more recently as executive chairman driving a transformation of the culture, governance and compliance of what is a unique Australian company,” Coonan said.
"My aim has been to stabilise and strengthen the business following the recommendations of the Bergin inquiry and set Crown on the reform path now being embedded across our world-class assets in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
“I have always sought to act in the best interests of Crown and endeavoured to consider the impact on our shareholders, customers, and employees. I am confident the board’s selection of Ziggy as chairman will reinforce the organisation-wide commitment to our reform program.”
The Crown board welcomed Dr Switkowski as the incoming chair and thanked Coonan for her leadership during such a critical time for the gambling and hotel giant.
“Ziggy’s experience and capabilities are well suited to meeting the challenges currently confronting Crown.
“We are determined to restore the trust of regulators, investors, employees, customers and the wider community. We want to acknowledge Helen’s contribution through a particularly challenging period for the business.
“When Crown needed strong and principled leadership, Helen stepped up. Helen has played a crucial role in stabilising Crown and brought to the business a culture of care, nurturing a more cohesive workplace for our people.”
Coonan's departure comes nearly a month after the company's CEO Xavier Walsh announced his resignation from Crown following the departures of most of the entity's board members throughout 2021.
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