Friday, October 9, 2009

how to lose a billion $$ or 2

Packer and ex-model Erika Baxter marry in France.(c)

Paul Barry'Who Wants to Be a Billionaire? The James Packer Story is about to hit the shelves and is eagerly awaited by those who are looking for an insight into whether the 'third generation' syndrome-where the grandson of self-made successful men can dilute the fortunes built up over decades and handed down through a family has come into play.

James Packer is son of the late media mogul Kerry Packer who transformed his father Sir Frank Packer's  one newspaper into Australia's dominant media company with TV stations and a magazine publishing empire.

It's reputed that James has lost two billion dollars on his Machau casino venture. Young James, it's claimed, ignored advice from various advisors to take note of Chinese superstitions about Feng Shui or indeed , taking on the Chinese at their own game and in a location where they dominate. He built on the "wrong" side of a river , is one claim,and was hoping to reap in a fortune at the gaming tables via sponsored gaming tours from the Chinese mainland.

This was complicated when the Chinese government began a crackdown on civil servants who were popping over to Machau and losing small fortunes of government funds at the roulette tables.

James Packer has divested himself of all his father's media assets including the once successful Nine TV network and Kerry's personal favourite that the Packer fortune was built upon-the Women's Weekly-once the biggest selling magazine in the world and still with a healthy circulation. In 2005 when the Shuttle attended the grand soiree thrown by big Kerry at his Nine studios to celebrate 50 years of the Weekly's publication, James was absent.

Insiders say unlike his father, known for his legendary grilling of business owners when about to purchase a corporation, James seems to rely on the advice of  investment bankers which can complicate a decision if a sale involves large fees from negotiations. They say his desire to outdo his father is so driven that he makes quick decisions that have seen him now reduced to the 4th richest Australian while Kerry was always number one.

Kerry Packer was regarded as a tough operator but always fair and was a low-key philanthropist who would think nothing of donating a few million dollars to purchase a fleet of ambulances outfitted with cardiac arrest units after a nearly fatal heart attack in 1990's. There are still dozens of older Packer employees who still live on generous pensions from Kerry long after they left his employment. Loyalty was the older Packer's trademark.

Father Kerry apparently despaired when James joined Scientology upon advice from his good pal, actor Tom Cruise. Although he has since left Scientology he still regularly holiday's with Cruise. James also sold Kerry's much loved Arctic P- a converted minesweeper on which James and newly wed wife Erika Baxter honeymooned on the Med with Cruise and Katie Holmes after their wedding in the South of France in 2007.

An example of James Packer's odd decisions was the launch of his new Nine's network season in 2001 at Garden Island when James spotted the Murdoch gossip columnist Ros Reines . Packer exploded at the sight of Reines. took her aside and berated her for 5 minutes about her intrusive articles about his private life.  It dominated the media for days, his TV season launch ignored.

An Eastern Suburb's hairdresser claims he took a recent call from James who remonstrated with him for commenting on wife Erika's hair to salon clients. 

Perhaps he should take advice from former partner Lachlan Murdoch, born on the same day as Packer, who left his father Rupert's empire and sold off his News Ltd shares to retire from public life. James and Lachlan together lost over $200M when they invested in Jodee Rich's One-Tel mobile phone company against their respective father's advice.

  James Packer & ex-wife Johdi Meares at Garden Island (c)

Paul Barry who wrote best-sellers about Kerry Packer and former entrepreneur Alan Bond is to launch his book in Sydney next week.