Childhood & Early life
James Packer was born in Sydney on 8th September 1967. He is the son of the late media mammoth Kerry Packer and philanthropist Roslyn Redman Packer. His grandfather was Sir Frank Packer, the media proprietor who owned Australian Consolidated Press and the Nine Network. His sister is Gretel Packer, a renowned philanthropist in Australia.
He was educated in Tudor House School, Moss Vale in New South Wales and Cranbrook School in Bellevue Hill in Sydney.
Soon after he graduated from high school, he went on to work as a jackaroo in his father’s extensive Newcastle Waters farmland, taking care of the cattle in the Barkly Tableland of the Northern Territory.
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James Packer began his career as a trainee in his father’s ranch. His father believed that working there would provide him with some much-needed perspective and focus, life-skills that couldn’t be taught in universities.
After herding cattle for a few years, his father sent him to London to learn under the guidance of turnaround management specialist Albert J. Dunlap.
He also worked briefly at the NM Rothschild investment bank while he was in London and joined the advertising department in Consolidated Press once he returned to Sydney.
Being born into wealth and privilege, Packer’s life path had been predetermined. He was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps in the business world.
In 1994, James became the director of Nine Network and chief executive of Australian Consolidated Press, both owned by the Packer family. After learning various aspects of running a conglomerate for a period of four years, he was named the executive chairman of Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBS) by his father Kerry Packer.
In 1999, Publishing and Broadcasting Limited purchased a major stake in the One Tel telecommunication company. James convinced his father to back his initiatives, and the company became Australia’s fourth largest telecommunications company before collapsing in 2001.
He received major criticism after losing A$327m of Publishing and Broadcasting Limited’s money and his father lost faith in his business acumen.
In 2003, he felt that there was an opportunity for growth in online classified advertisement market. He purchased a 25% stake in ‘SEEK’ for A$33m in August.
Seeing that his investment in ‘SEEK’ was reaping its rewards, he urged the Australian Consolidated Press (ACP), a magazine group then controlled by his family, to invest in online advertiser Carsales.com. The ACP acquired 41% stake in Carsales.com in October 2005. He later sold his stake in ‘SEEK’ for an enormous profit of $440m.
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On December 26, 2005, his father Kerry Packer passed away and he inherited the control of his family company Publishing and Broadcasting Company.
By 2006, he wanted to venture into other business avenues and step out of his father’s shadow. He believed that with the advent of the internet and the changes it brought to the world, the entire media landscape was in for a major makeover.
He decided to sell 50% of his media assets, which also comprised a 50% stake in the website ‘Ninemsn’ and a 51% stake in Carsales, to a private equity firm ‘CVC Asia Pacific’ for A$4.5billion and another A$1billion in equity in the new company which was to be called PBL Media.
He sold 25% of his share of PBL Media to CVC group for $515m by June 2007 and by the end of 2008, he wrote down his final 25% share of PBL Media to zero.
In 2013, he and Brett Ratner co-created Ratpac Entertainment, which gained instant success with its first investment in the space thriller motion picture ‘Gravity’.
Crown Resorts Limited
James Packer had already set his sight on moving out from the media business and entering the gaming and entertainment field. He aimed at establishing a global gambling empire, Crown Resorts Limited.
Crown was established in 2007 when Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) was divided into two companies. Crown Resorts was formed with one part of the capital and the remaining assets were held by Consolidated Media Holdings.
He mainly focused on making Crown the biggest name in the gaming and tourism sector. Crown Resorts has various investments in the integrated resort and casino sector in Australia and Macau, and wholly owns and runs high-end casinos and entertainment centres in London, Melbourne and Perth.
Crown Resorts has revolutionised the gaming and entertainment industry. Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth are plush entertainment centres with over 2,750 rooms, resort pools, gambling areas, villas, high-end restaurants, convention centres and performance areas, sprawling over acres of land.
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Crown Resorts market capitalization was more than $8 billion by October, 2017. With business booming at a steady pace, James wanted to enter the Las Vegas gambling market and lost US$250m after other investors withdrew financing from the Fontainebleau Resorts. A similar string of losses followed suit with Gateway Casinos, Harrah’s Entertainment and Station Casinos that amounted to $547.5 million.
Crown’s Australian properties in Perth and Melbourne attract over 31 million visits every year. In the year 2016, the tourists mainly came from Asian countries and that generated one third of their fiscal revenue for the year.
Crown has been aggressively expanding and has invested over A$4.1 billion to open new attractions. Their upcoming project in Sydney, the Crown Sydney Hotel Resort, which cost a whopping A$2billion, is likely to open by the year 2020.
Crown Resorts entered a joint venture with Betfair Group plc and called it Betfair Australasia. Crown had acquired 50% equity interest of Betfair Australasia for $10 million by August 2014.
Crown Resorts also hold 50% equity interest in ‘Aspers’, which is a group of casino complex in UK.
By 2014, Crown Resorts had entered into a deal with Matthew Tripp, with which Packer assumed control of BetEasy, the online betting platform and renamed it CrownBet. CrownBet was engulfed in controversies and was convicted on five counts of law breach by the NSW Department of Justice.
Packer stepped down as executive chairman of Crown Resorts on 21 March 2018 because of his deteriorating physical and mental health issues.
Family & Personal Life
James Packer has always been in the limelight either for his aggressive business acumen or his downward-spiralling personal life. He was once engaged to actress Kate Fischer. After a two-year engagement period, the couple separated in 1998.
In October 1999, he married model and television star Jodhi Meares, at his residence in Bellevue Hill. They stayed together for two years and separated in 2002.
After his first failed marriage, James Packer befriended Tom Cruise who introduced him to Scientology. He began attending the Church of Scientology in Australia and also started taking courses on the church’s premises in 2002. He revealed that Scientology had helped him during his tough times. However, his interest didn’t last for too long.
On 20 June 2007, he married model and singer Erica Baxter. Their first wedding ceremony was held at the Antibes town hall and a second ceremony was at Hotel Du Cap in Cap d’Antibes on the French Riviera. They have three children, Indigo, Jackson Lloyd and Emmanuelle Sheelah.
The couple separated in 2013, after numerous reports were published linking Packer to actress Charlotte Kirk. However, Erica and Packer continue to maintain amicable relations.
He was in a long-drawn battle with his sister Gretel Packer over the distribution of their father’s estate. Their bitter feud ended with James signing over the pastoral property worth $90 million to Gretel.
He was engaged to American singer Mariah Carey in January 2016, but broke up by October. Their relationship came to a bitter end when they publicly parted ways. He reportedly paid a settlement of US$50 million to Carey as an ‘inconvenience fee’ after their engagement failed.
He owns a superyacht ‘Ellerston Z’ and also a luxury cruise ship ‘Arctic P’. He has his own private jet and also a 12-seater Sikorsky S-76 helicopter. He is known to have several luxury vehicles, including an Aston Martin DB9 coupe.