Echo Bites Back Against “Smear Campaign”

As the war between Crown and Echo over Sydney’s casino licence rages on, chairman of Echo Entertainment John O’Neill has vocalised his support of chief executive John Redmond and cited James Packer’s activity as a “cheap smear campaign”, carried out with the approaching deadline in mind.

O’Neill did not explicitly name Crown as the guilty party but it was heavily implied that he believes a recent internal investigation into Redmond’s actions was put into action by Crown as a means to harm Echo’s chances regarding the NSW government’s final decision. This comes at a time when Echo’s shares are lower than ever as a result a Crown selling its stake.

However O’Neill had nothing but good things to say about Redmond and his work as Echo’s leader since January. The investigation in question was carried out to review his behaviour that staff attributed to drinking when he fell asleep in one of The Star’s bars, resulting in him being escorted to his room. During the review, security footage of him on that night was studied and led to him being cleared of all allegations. The official statement from Echo explained that Redmond was merely jetlagged after flying in from the US earlier that day and sitting through meetings.

Echo is now considering taking legal action over accusations of Redmond being drunk when the inquiry made it clear that this was not the case. Echo already has a rocky relationship with the NSW government after a case involving sexual harassment at The Star last year and Redmond is playing a vital part in improving that relationship, while his performance so far has garnered plenty of praise from O’Neill.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority was also involved with the investigation by Echo’s request and no evidence of a breach of any rules regarding alcohol was found. Echo’s investors have mixed opinions on Redmond and some are perfectly happy with his work, while others are waiting to make their minds up as he has spent less than six months in his position.

Echo currently holds Sydney’s only casino licence, which is used to operate The Star, but it expires in 2019. James Packer hopes to claim it as his own after that so he can operate his own high-roller casino, which will make up a large part of his $1 billion luxury hotel project at Barangaroo. However Echo is also looking to extend its licence and remain Sydney’s sole casino operator, promising to put $1 billion into hotel developments and other investments. But only one proposal can go ahead and both must be submitted to the government by June 21.

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