Rob Ranking quits as Crown Resorts chairman as James Packer returns to the board.

Rob Rankin (pictured) will step down from his role as Crown Resorts chairman after less than a year and a half in the role, to make way for longtime Packer associate, John Alexander, previously the company’s executive deputy chairman. (Image: Business Insider Australia)

James Packer is back on the board at Crown Resorts, as a major shake-up in the boardroom heralds the departure of Rob Rankin as the company’s chairman.

While he will remain on the board, he’ll be replaced by Packer loyalist, John Alexander, previously the company’s executive deputy chairman.

It hasn’t been a long tenure for Rankin, who replaced Packer as chairman in August 2015, when the latter made the surprise announcement that he would step down from the role to “spend more time with his children.”

Four months later, Packer made the even more surprising announcement that he would quit as company director, so that he could devote his energies “to a number of key development projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Las Vegas, as well as Crown’s online platforms.”

Difficult Year

Whether his kids have now started driving him up the wall, or he simply has more free time now that he no longer has to cope with the demands of ex-fiancée Mariah Carey, we’ll never know. But it does feel like a timely re-entry for Packer, after a testing year for the company.

Profits have been below par of late, and the arrest of 18 of the company’s employees in China late last year on gambling charges, allegedly for marketing Crown Resorts’ services to high rollers on the Chinese mainland, would have been a severe embarrassment for Packer.

A report compiled by for high-end stock market investors was scathing of the Crown Resorts board in the wake of the arrests, highlighting its lack of “operational experience in gaming and in Asia,” and “specific industry skills among independent directors.”

But the reshuffle is also necessary because the business itself is undergoing a period of change. Crown Resorts made a dramatic U-turn on its global expansion strategy in December, suddenly and unexpectedly retreating from both Las Vegas and Macau, and selling its $1.2 billion stake in Melco Crown.

Shift in Focus

The shift in strategy is all about Crown refocusing on the thriving domestic market and its core Australian assets, and it seems Packer is simply rolling up his sleeves and getting on with the task in hand.   

“We have had discussions about what makes the most sense for CPH and Rob [Rankin] personally, since the material announcements made by Crown late last year, including its selldown in Melco Crown and its increased focus on its core Australian business,” said Packer.

“This realignment of corporate priorities, which Rob strongly endorsed and drove, coupled with his own professional and personal priorities based overseas, made this conversation, like all our conversations, straightforward,” he added. “I look forward to working with Rob on the Board of Crown.”

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