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Insights into the Packer dynasty

Wed, Apr 17, 8:51am by Staff Writer

The end of the Packer dynasty was once unthinkable, but could be a possibility after reports surfaced last week of a potential takeover by Wynn Resorts.

Macau Daily Times reported that James Packer’s casino operator Crown Resorts said it was discussing a near A$10 billion sale to Wynn Resorts.

While the talks collapsed just hours later, the billionaire has sent out a clear signal.

He is willing to sell his firm’s 46 per cent share in Crown and dismantle a family empire built up over four generations.

Wynn is unlikely to stay away for long and other suitors could join the fray.

A sellout by Packer would be the culmination of a multi-year overseas retreat and tumultuous period marked by a crackdown in China, an ugly split with his fiancée Mariah Carey and a public battle with mental health that forced him to quit Crown’s board last year.

The author of Packer’s biography, The Price of Fortune: The Untold Story of Being James Packer, Damon Kitney said, “It’s the end of an era.”

“For James Packer, history and legacy is one thing. But the most important thing is getting healthy. He’s putting his hand up and saying, I’ve had enough of the spotlight.”

A spokesman for Packer’s personal investment company, which holds his Crown stake, did not return a call for comment.

A Crown spokesman declined to comment.

Big shoes to fill

Soon after the collapse of Australian phone company One.Tel, James Packer had to shoulder the biggest inheritance in Australian history following the death of his father Kerry.

Still in his father’s shadow, James set out to transform his late father’s media empire into an international business equipped for the digital era.

He amassed a collection of casino and entertainment assets that reached beyond Australia into North America and Macau.

That sprawl included stakes in award-winning Japanese restaurant Nobu and movie production company Ratpac.

Packer’s most high profile new venture was in Macau with Lawrence Ho, the son of casino kingpin Stanley Ho.

Macau a turning point

The young billionaires opened their first Macau casino in 2007, with hopes of luring mainland China’s biggest bettors.

Packer’s global ambitions took at this time, when Chinese authorities rounded up Crown’s staff on the mainland.

A court convicted 19 current and former employees for illegally promoting gambling.

According to Kitney’s biography and based on extension interviews with Packer, the arrests hit the billionaire hard.

Packer was at the time staying in a house in Los Angeles with close friend Warren Beatty.

Packer recalls in the book that he was drinking as much as a bottle of vodka everyday, with Beatty driving him to a psychiatrist for medication.

The episode made Packer desire a more simplistic life and he lived for an extensive period at his polo estate in Argentina.

Crown had closed almost all of its regional marketing offices in Asia within a year of the China debacle.

This funneled big stakes players to Australia and sold out of the Macau casino venue.

The company also ditched a plot in Las Vegas where Packer once hoped to build a casino.

Wynn’s $14.75 a share proposal would have shrunk Packer’s share in Crown to a smaller take in the US gaming giant, which owns resorts in Las Vegas and Macau.

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