Blackstone gains key approvals for Crown acquisition

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Private equity fund Blackstone has received a number of key approvals for its acquisition of Australian resort operator Crown Resorts to go ahead.
Crown Melbourne fined $1m by Victoria Commission

The first of these approvals came from the Federal Court of Australia, and allows a shareholder vote on the deal to take place on 29 April. The court approved the scheme booklet which will serve as the notice for the meeting.

The meeting will be held online, with those unable to attend allowed to submit a proxy vote by 27 April. 

Blackstone, which acquired a 9.99% stake in Crown from Melco in 2020, will not be able to vote.

Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board was also required to approve the deal, as it does for any acquisition of an Australian business by a non-Australian entity. Ultimately, the board had “no objection to Blackstone’s proposed acquisition”.

Besides the shareholder vote, the deal also still awaits regulatory approval from each of the jurisdictions in which Crown operates. In each of the three Australian states in which Crown operates a resort, the business has come under recent scrutiny, with reviews in New South Wales, Victoria and most recently Western Australia all finding Crown “unsuitable” for a gaming licence.

The reviews all found evidence of money laundering and links to junkets with ties to organised crime at the operator’s resorts, as well as questioning Crown’s management structure.

However, all three inquiries into Crown said the operator would still be permitted to operate its casino if it underwent certain changes.

Blackstone had submitted its first proposal to acquire Crown more than a year ago, bidding AUS$8.02bn (£4.47bn/€5.21bn/US$6.19bn) to acquire the remaining 90.01% stake in the business.

That bid was rejected by Crown in November 2021.

However, in January of this year, Blackstone submitted a new, higher bid. Crown’s board then unanimously approved that new bid.

Subscribe to the ICE365 newsletter