JAMES Packer has resigned from the board of Crown Resorts Limited (ASX:CWN) just four months after announcing his departure as chairman of the Melbourne based casino group.
The surprise move comes as talk surrounds the possible privatisation of some of Crown's assets, which is seen as the reason for Crown shares surging more than 6 per cent in early trade.
New chairman Rob Rankin has indicated that, as major shareholder, Packer could make a return some time in the future.
Packer says his decision has been aided by the recent separation of family assets, held through the family owned Consolidated Press Holdings with his sister Gretel.
Packer, who now lives in the US, has reiterated his desire to deliver on Crown's big-ticket projects, including the company's new Sydney casino and Crown's planned Melbourne expansion despite his departure.
"I have taken this decision over several months following the smooth transition by Rob Rankin into the company chairman's role and the stable and cohesive functioning of the board and the senior management team during the period that I have transitioned overseas," he says.
"Now is the right time for me to focus my endeavours on my new role with Crown, as I outlined to shareholders when I stepped aside as chairman in August.
"I intend to devote my energies to a number of key development projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Las Vegas as well as Crown's online platforms."
Crown says Packer will remain as remain co-chairman of international joint venture Melco Crown Entertainment and co-chairman of Alon.
"Of course, I remain incredibly passionate about Crown and its world-class integrated resort businesses," Packer says.
"Crown is my biggest professional priority and represents the vast majority of my net wealth. I am enormously proud of all that has been achieved, but we have so much more to deliver for shareholders.
"I am very confident that, together with my colleagues on Crown's able board, led by Rob as chairman, we can deliver on these projects for all shareholders.
"At Consolidated Press Holdings too, we recently concluded a major transaction in my family's business and this also has assisted the timing of my decision. Gretel and I have never been closer.
"I wish Rob and the rest of the board well. I will remain in constant contact with them all, as we continue to build a world-class luxury tourism and entertainment brand.
Rankin thanks Packer for his strong leadership and guidance at the Crown board.
"Before I arrived at Crown, James and I discussed the importance of having him remain on the board during my early tenure as chairman to ensure a stable transition," Rankin says.
"I take huge comfort from James remaining a supportive and visionary majority shareholder yet also feel very accountable and humbled by the trust and faith he has placed in the board and management."
"However, this is not an ending, but a phase and an internal transition. James will continue to have a very active involvement in Crown in his new role and as the major shareholder of the company. And, of course, as the major shareholder, it is open to James to return to the Crown Board at some time in the future.
"Since taking over from James as chairman in August, I have observed how the Crown board works very much as a team with Crown's senior management. I am personally extremely excited at the opportunities we have in front of us and I know the entire board is united in working to deliver on those opportunities for all shareholders."
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