View Full Version : Kerry Packer, Australian billionaire and high stakes gambler, dies

12-27-2005, 12:33 AM
The guy's gambling trips were legendary..


Australia's richest man, media mogul Kerry Packer, dead at 68
22:19:24 EST Dec 26, 2005
SYDNEY (AP) - Australia's richest man, media mogul Kerry Packer, who was known throughout the world for his love of sports and gambling, has died, his family said Tuesday. He was 68.

Packer - listed by Forbes magazine this year as the 94th richest man in the world with a fortune of $5 billion US - died at his Sydney home Monday evening, according to a family statement released through his Nine Network television channel.

"He died peacefully at home with his family at his bedside," the statement said.

Packer amassed his fortune through his family's Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., which he inherited from his father. Packer handed the day-to-day running of his media empire - which includes Australia's most popular television network and a stable of profitable magazines - to his son James some years ago.

While Packer's business empire made his name in Australia, it was his love of sports and gambling that earned him worldwide fame.

In 1977, he reinvented limited-overs cricket to make it more appealing to a mass television audience.

Players in the Packer-backed World Series Cricket swapped their traditional white clothing for multicolored uniforms disparagingly referred to by some as pajamas.

The format was attacked as gaudy by traditionalists, but helped revitalize the game. The series also controversially featured South African players who had for some years been subject to sporting sanctions because of their country's apartheid regime.

On Tuesday morning, the Australian and South African cricket teams held a minute's silence in memory of Packer in the southern city of Melbourne before play started on day two of the second Test.

And Packer will be missed by casino bosses around the world.

He haunted baccarat tables from London to Las Vegas and his love of gambling inspired him to buy Melbourne's Crown Casino complex, Australia's largest.

Reports of huge losses in the tens of millions surfaced from time to time but Packer either refused to comment on them or brushed them off.

Son of publishing mogul Sir Frank Packer, Kerry began his career aged 19 in the printing room of his father's Daily Telegraph newspaper in Sydney.

Packer was trained in all aspects of his father's business except as a reporter - he suffered from the learning disability dyslexia and was not considered journalist material.

When his father died in 1974, Packer inherited two television stations, five radio stations, nine provincial newspapers and the biggest magazine publishing company in the country. The Daily Telegraph had been sold two years earlier to rival Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

By the late 1980s, Packer had acquired another magazine business, bought and sold the nation's largest engineering company and expanded programming at Nine Network.

Packer also invested in real estate, becoming one of Australia's largest landowners and cattle barons by the late 1980s. His Australian properties were said to cover an area bigger than Belgium.

Murdoch, who heads the News Corp. media empire, praised his rival as "a lifelong friend and a tough competitor. He was the most successful businessman of our generation.

"As a broadcaster, he had an uncanny knack of knowing what people across the country were thinking and this finely tuned antennae made him the best broadcaster this country has seen," Murdoch said in a statement.

Prime Minister John Howard also applauded him.

"He was a great Australian, he was a larger-than-life character, and in so many ways he left his mark on the Australian community over a very long career in business," Howard told reporters in Sydney.

Packer was undoubtedly a powerful businessman, courted by prime ministers and credited with using his media empire to make or break governments. He was not partisan. According to former prime minister Bob Hawke, Packer "preferred winners to losers."

In 1987, Packer made the deal of a lifetime when he sold his two television stations to up-coming entrepreneur Alan Bond for one billion Australian dollars. Packer's financial advisers then valued the stations at just $400 million.

Packer bought the TV stations back three years later for $200 million.

A giant of a man who was said to live on hamburgers and milkshakes, Packer was nonetheless a keen sports fan and in the 1980s began devoting his time and money to polo.

The family statement did not state the cause of Packer's death, but he had long been plagued by ill health.

In 2000, he received a new kidney donated by his longtime helicopter pilot and friend Nick Ross.

The operation left Packer without either of his own kidneys - the first was removed in the 1980s after doctors found it to be cancerous.

In 1990, he suffered a heart attack while playing polo and his heart stopped for about seven minutes before paramedics revived him with a defibrillator.

Days later, he donated $3 million to equip all ambulances in New South Wales state with defibrillators - machines later irreverently branded Packer Whackers.

He had a heart bypass in 1990, but suffered a second heart attack in 1995.

Kerry Packer is survived by his wife of 42 years, Roslyn, his son James and daughter Gretel.