James Packer’s love of change continues. First there were the changes at the Nine Network with Sam Chisholm being tossed out and Eddie McGuire brought in. This was after the hiring of Ian Law from WA Newspapers to run ACP Magazines where he removed several long time executives and publishers.

Then there was the big one: the revamp of the media assets into PBL media, half owned by private equity group, CVC and by PBL.

Now a change that you may have thought would have been made much earlier: the splitting of the important gaming business into local (Crown and Burswood) and international.

The new international part of the gaming division will be based in Melbourne at Crown Casino and will be run by Rowen Craigie, the smartest person on the PBL board when it comes to the gaming industry.

PBL said Craigie will oversee the new International Business Development Group while keeping responsibility for existing gaming businesses in Australia and PBL’s joint ventures in Asia and the United Kingdom.

The company said he would be spending most of his time on emerging opportunities and relinquish his current role as chief executive of Crown.

Intriguingly, that has seen some shuffling of the management and the emergence of a successor to Craigie in David Courtney, the former head of Burswood in Perth and the CFO of Crown before that.

Courtney will become chief executive of Crown but remains an executive director on the Burswood board.

The current operating officer of Burswood, Barry Felstead, will become Burswood CEO; current CFO of Crown, Rob Turner, will be appointed to the new position of executive vice-president, International Business Development.

PBL last month revealed lower results from gaming and the Nine Network offset a small rise from ACP Magazines. That pushed the company’s interim earnings down 12 per cent (before being “normalised” for gaming wins and losses for high rollers). PBL shares were trading around $18.47, steady on the day after a fall of 13c at the start.

It’s clear from the announcement that Packer and the PBL board have more talent in the gaming business than in the media, which indicates the priorities at the company.

And, yet in the last period of being wholly owned, TV, magazines and other media interests contributed over 52% to PBL’s Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation, reversing the trend for gaming to dominate.

Peter Fray

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