News National More departures at Crown, with CEO Ken Barton next to fall
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More departures at Crown, with CEO Ken Barton next to fall

The clean out at Crown is well underway.
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Crown Resorts CEO and board director Ken Barton has become the highest-profile sacrifice in the wake of a scathing review of the casino giant.

Mr Barton agreed to resign after meeting with company chair Helen Coonan on Thursday, The Australian reports.

The chief executive had been under pressure after a damning inquiry report made findings against him, leading the NSW regulator to suggest he had to go.

The Victorian regulator had also asked him to explain why he was still suitable to be associated with Crown’s Melbourne casino.

Fellow Crown director Andrew Demetriou also tendered his resignation on Thursday, The Australian reported, saying in a statement he was stepping down “to give Crown the best possible chance of becoming suitable to the NSW regulator”.

“In taking this decision I believe the comments directed at me in the report are unfair and unjust and I will defend my reputation at every opportunity,” he said.

Crown is promising “root and branch” changes to satisfy the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, which is threatening to deny it a Sydney gaming licence.

Crown chair Helen Coonan acknowledged on Thursday the report into the group’s activity that found “serious conduct, culture and compliance issues that clearly do not accord with our values”.

“While we have already taken a number of important steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture, I recognise from the commissioner’s report we have much more to do,” she said.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the problem and appreciate there is a need for ‘root and branch’ change. This change has commenced.”

On top of Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou, two directors aligned to majority shareholder and non-director James Packer have quit Crown’s board after the inquiry also criticised the billionaire.

As chief financial officer, Mr Barton lobbied for bank accounts to stay open despite knowing of concerns money was being laundered through them. He also misled shareholders about an information-sharing agreement with Mr Packer.

Mr Demetriou was sprung reading from prepared notes as he gave evidence to the inquiry, but initially denied he had done it even after he was caught.

ILGA chair Philip Crawford said on Thursday it was “obvious” from reading the report that Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou needed to make a swift exit.

“More people have got to go,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

Victoria’s gaming regulator said on Thursday it would write to both men and demand they explain why they remain suitable to be close associates of Crown Melbourne.

Mr Crawford has urged the company to move quickly before the liquor licences for Crown’s Sydney operation expire in April.

The ILGA board will meet on Friday.

Ms Coonan said she is committed to working with Mr Crawford to reform the company for the sake of the more than 20,000 people who worked at Crown.

Mr Crawford welcomed the departure of directors Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston from the Crown board on Wednesday.

Another director, John Poynton, will stay on but will no longer be a nominee of Mr Packer’s private company Consolidated Press Holdings.

“That’s a really positive start. Just what we’re going to do with Mr Packer and his 36 per cent (shareholding) is something we’ll be discussing,” Mr Crawford said.

The report into Crown by Commissioner Patricia Bergin recommended an overhaul of the company’s board and management if it wanted to open its Sydney casino.

It noted Crown facilitated money laundering and failed to act when made aware of the issue.

Mr Crawford endorsed one of the broader policy recommendations in Ms Bergin’s report on Thursday, a card that would require users to register before gambling as a measure to combat money laundering.

-AAP