* Net loss of A$120 mln for H1 2021, first since 2009
* General Counsel Mary Manos resigns, following other departures
* New interim exec-chair Coonan promises ‘root and branch’ change (Recasts and adds exec-chairman comments)
Feb 18 (Reuters) - Australia’s Crown Resorts Ltd new executive chair on Thursday sought to reassure investors that the beleaguered casino operator’s worst days were behind it, after an inquiry accused it of widespread money laundering and governance issues.
Announcing its first half-year loss in over a decade due to intermittent COVID-19 lockdowns that hurt its operations, and another executive departure, interim chairwoman Helen Coonan said she was committed to “driving the necessary ‘root and branch’ change” required.
The Melbourne-based casino operator was this month deemed unsuitable for a gambling licence for its new Sydney casino and a state regulator-commissioned report cited Crown’s links to organised crime and criticised former CEO Ken Barton as “no match for what is needed at the helm.”
Barton and several other directors have since resigned, and on Thursday, general counsel and company secretary Mary Manos followed suit, the company said.
“Today, I ... commit to taking all the steps necessary as they emerge to make sure we learn from these mistakes, and never repeat them again,” said Coonan, the previous independent chair that assumed the executive position immediately after Barton’s resignation on Monday.
“We are committed to working closely with all of our regulators in all jurisdictions, and I strongly believe our considerable reform program will allow us to grow and emerge, a much stronger company.”
The general counsel role will be separated from company secretary to double-down focus on legal and governance compliance, Crown added.
Shares in Crown, which is partly owned by Australian billionaire James Packer were 1% higher, slightly ahead of the broader market.
Crown posted a net loss of A$120.9 million ($93.73 million) for the six months ended Dec. 31, as COVID-19 restrictions kept its Melbourne site closed for most of the period.
That was down from the A$218.2 million posted a year ago, and its first half-year loss since 2009, according to Refinitiv Eikon.
The company is also facing separate inquiries by the Victorian and Western Australia’s gambling watchdogs, as well as an enforcement enquiry by the country’s financial crime regulator, AUSTRAC.
Coonan, who will see her pay surge nearly four-fold to A$2.5 million a year, said the overall timing for all the enquiries was uncertain.
$1 = 1.2898 Australian dollars Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Nikhil Subba and Nikhil Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr, Arun Koyyur and Ana Nicolaci da Costa