«I am still vitally interested in Crown’s success as a world class resort and gaming business.»
The sale of about 20 per cent of Mr Packer’s shares leaves him with about a quarter of the company, worth about $2.3 billion.
Speculation of a potential sale of Mr Packer’s shareholding has been rising in recent weeks after news broke that Crown had been engaged in discussions for a $10 billion cash-and-stock buyout with Las Vegas casino giant operator Wynn Resorts before the negotiations abruptly collapsed in April.
Sources close to the Crown board on Thursday night said they had not been aware of Mr Packer’s plan to sell shares to Melco, but were not surprised at the news given his consideration of a sale to Wynn.
«We knew Packer had put Crown in play when Wynn came knocking,» one insider said.
«But I’m not sure that this means he is going to sell out altogether … and I don’t think he will.»
Melco, which is purchasing the shares from CPH, is run by Lawrence Ho, son of the gambling tycoon Stanley Ho who once enjoyed a monopoly on gambling in Macau.
During that time the companies operated the City of Dreams and Melco Crown resorts in Macau.
«I am thrilled Lawrence Ho and Melco have chosen to invest in Crown,» Mr Packer said.
Mr Ho said the two companies shared similar DNA and expressed confidence in Crown’s Barangaroo development in Sydney.
«Crown’s resorts in Perth and Melbourne are world class entertainment destinations and I believe that Crown Sydney, much like Melco’s Morpheus property, will create an architectural icon for the city, the country and the world,» Mr Ho said.
Melco said it intended to pursue representation on Crown’s board once it obtains approval from gaming regulatory authorities across Australia.
The company also signalled it would be willing to increase its stake in Crown.
«Additionally, subject to obtaining requisite regulatory approvals, Melco welcomes the opportunity to increase its ownership in Crown,» Melco said in a statement to the Nasdaq stock exchange.
More to come
Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.