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James Packer Rejoins Crown Resorts And Sells Las Vegas Site

Australian casino tycoon James Packer is moving forward with the plan to exit fully from international ventures, with the latest withdrawal being from a Las Vegas project.

His company Crown Resorts has hired commercial real estate firm CBRE to list a 35-acre plot of land on Las Vegas Boulevard. The land is owned by Crown Resorts along with investment firm Oaktree Capital Management. It is located opposite the famed Wynn Las Vegas and Encore properties just ahead of the Fashion Show mall.

The site was purchased for $1.2 billion in 2007 for developing the $2.5 billion Alon Las Vegas project. Crown had partnered with Andrew Pascal, a former executive of Wynn Las Vegas and received financial backing from Oaktree. The project was expected to be an 1100-room resort.

However Crown Resorts announced a major shift in its strategy last December when it announced that it was moving out from all international ventures including Alon Las Vegas and would focus on its Australian projects. It also announced several measures to cut costs including layoffs and reviewing of sponsorship deals.

The rejig was announced in the aftermath of the surprise arrest of 18 of its employees by Chinese authorities which triggered a sharp drop in its VIP gaming revenue that is yet to recover. Only one of those arrested has been released so far. The Las Vegas sale follows the announcement made last week that Crown Resorts was exiting fully from its highly successful Macau joint venture Melco Crown Entertainment, breaking up a 12-year partnership.

In a statement, a Crown spokesman said

Crown will now be more focused on driving greater returns in Australia and ensuring the company is well prepared to deliver Crown Sydney in 2021.

Analysts are hopeful that Packer re-entering the board will bring renewed focus on Australian properties. The organization shakeup also involved changes to the management. Packer appointed John Alexander as chairman in place of Robert Rankin. Rankin has also moved out of Consolidated Press Holdings which is Packer’s private investment firm. A long-time legal adviser Guy Jalland will be replacing him.

Packer who owns 48 percent of Crown also rejoined its board recently after being cleared by local regulators. He had stepped down in 2015. The only remaining international interest for Crown is its Aspinall casino in London. The company is said to be in preparation to make a serious bid for a license in Japan.

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