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Alexander offloads half Crown stake for $2.5m

28 Dec 2012 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD - BEN BUTLER


THE Crown non-executive director John Alexander has offloaded half his shareholding in the casino group, reaping $2.56 million.

In a notice filed with the exchange on Christmas Eve, Mr Alexander revealed he sold about 249,500 Crown shares on December 19.

The move lends weight to speculation that Mr Alexander, a long-time lieutenant to the Packer dynasty, is to return to the organisation where he began his career, Fairfax Media, as a director or chairman of the board.

Mr Alexander's sale came on the same day as the Crown chairman, James Packer, waded into the market on a two-day buying spree that pushed his stake in the company from 48.09 per cent to 50.01 per cent, Bloomberg data reveals.

Mr Packer, who announced his move on December 20, spent $144.5 million to buy 13.9 million shares through his companies Consolidated Press Holdings and Cairnton Holdings.

Creep provisions in Australian law allow Mr Packer to increase his shareholding up to 3 per cent every six months without launching a takeover bid for the company.

He completed his exit from the media business run by his late father Kerry, selling his remaining stake in Consolidated Media to News Limited for $2 billion last month.

Mr Alexander has played down talk he is set to return to Fairfax, publisher of BusinessDay, telling The Australian last month he had held "zero conversations with anybody at Fairfax".

However, he added: "I can't say what will happen in the future. I'd be open to looking at anything. I have an open mind."

Crown shares rose 6¢ on Thursday to close at $10.56.