Blackstone’s recent offer for Crown Resorts has been rejected by the company’s board, citing it “does not represent compelling value”.

Crown Resorts has announced that Ken Barton has stepped down from his role of chief executive officer and managing director with immediate effect, with Helen Coonan to lead the company on an interim basis. 

Barton, whose departure was denied last week following media speculation, becomes the latest to leave the group under intense scrutiny and pressure after a scathing report suggested that the group isn’t fit to operate the $2.2bn Crown Sydney Hotel Resort.

The almost 800-page critique of Crown’s suitability follows allegations raised by Australia’s Nine Network, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and other media outlets, that Crown, or its agents, affiliates or subsidiaries, engaged in money-laundering; breached gambling laws; and partnered with junket operators with links to drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers, and organised crime groups. 

Following the exit, Coonan will lead the company as executive chairman while the board oversees a search for a new CEO.

“I would like to thank Ken for his dedication and commitment to Crown,” she said. “Ken joined Crown more than a decade ago and has played an invaluable role with the business, initially as CFO and in the past year as CEO. Ken has always put the interests of Crown first. 

“Assuming the role of executive chairman is a decision I have not taken lightly but the board feels it provides leadership stability and certainty at this important time for the business. 

“The board is determined to maintain the momentum as Crown takes significant steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture. Working closely with the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and regulators in Victoria and Western Australia, I will continue to lead on implementation of Crown’s ambitious reform program.” 

Last week, Andrew Demetriou resigned as a director of Crown and as chairman of Crown Melbourne Limited, joining Guy Jalland and Michael Johnston who exited similar posts earlier in the week.

Barton, who will continue to assist the Coonan in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth handover, said: “I would like to thank the Crown directors for the opportunity to work with them on implementing Crown’s strategy. 

“Over the past 10 years, Crown has established itself as a great Australian company with world-class assets and I am absolutely certain the business is now on the right path as it works to restore confidence in its operations. I am committed to assisting with the transition to new leadership.”