SYDNEY/HONG KONG - Australian billionaire James Packer has quit the board of casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd due to mental illness, following a tumultuous period including a break-up with singer Mariah Carey and the failure of Crown's expansion strategy.
The unexpected departure by the 47-per cent owner of Crown comes as the world's seventh-largest listed casino company tries to rebuild after the arrest of 18 staff in China in 2016 triggered a global pull-back.
"Mr Packer is suffering from mental health issues. At this time he intends to step back from all commitments," a Packer spokesman said in an emailed statement.
Crown shares dropped 1 per cent to their lowest close in a month, while the broader market was flat. The stock was already under pressure as it went ex-dividend on Tuesday.
The company gave no details on Packer's health issues, but recent years have not been smooth sailing for either Crown or its high-profile director, the only son of late media mogul Kerry Packer.
Packer, 50, first left Crown's board in 2015, the year he was briefly engaged to singer Carey, and rejoined 14 months ago while the company was in crisis following the arrest of staff for breaches of gambling marketing laws in China.
The arrests prompted the Melbourne-based, A$8.9 billion ($6.8 billion) firm to reverse a decade-old global expansion into the Asian gambling hub Macau and Las Vegas, to focus on Australia. Packer declared the company's global strategy a failure.
He began selling assets to pay off his debts, including stakes in Macau-based Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd and Hollywood film company RatPac Entertainment.
He told The Australian newspaper in October "it has been a tumultuous four or five years for me".
"I've got China falling apart, the Australian casino businesses missing budgets by big amounts, I've got Mariah breaking up with me... " he was quoted as saying.
In February, he was named by Israeli police as a witness in a bribery investigation against Benjamin Netanyahu, having lavished the Israeli prime minister and his family with expensive gifts.