James Packer’s name is certainly familiar among those in the high-powered world of business and investment, but it is not one that is well known among players. This is a pity, as Packer is the driving force behind Crown Limited, one of Australia’s biggest casino groups.
In January 2016, Forbes named him as the sixth richest Australian, after estimating his net worth at a whopping US$3.5 billion.
Childhood and Education
Packer was born on 8 September 1967 to Kerry Packer, a media mogul, and his wife Roslyn, in Sydney. He received his Higher School Certificate at Bellevue Hill’s Cranbrook School, and then went to work on his father’s cattle station.
University was out of the question, as he did not achieve the school results to qualify for that level of tertiary education. However, Packer received good grounding in being mentored by his father and by Albert J. Dunlap, an executive in the corporate world.
Packer Gets Into Gaming
Packer later took over the reins of Consolidated Press Holdings Limited, the family’s media company. In a bid to provide more security for the company, which relied on classified adverts to contribute a significant portion of its revenue, he bought stakes in classifieds websites SEEK and CarSales in 2003 and 2005 respectively.
In 2006, Packer started thinking about branching out from media and into gaming and tourism. To accomplish the move, the family company sold 50 percent of its media assets. This was followed by the sale of more media assets in 2007 and 2008.
A few years later, the businessman began to focus almost entirely on Crown Limited. The international gaming company overseen by Packer opened casino resorts in Australia, before setting its sights abroad.
Its Australian casino resorts include Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth. It also owns and operates London’s Crown Aspinall’s casino, has equity interest in Aspers casinos in Northampton, East London, Milton Keynes, Stratford, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Packer’s company also owns 50 percent of online sportsbook Betfair.
Packer invested in Melco Crown Entertainment, essentially forming a partnership with Stanley Ho’s son, Lawrence. It was through this strategic move that he was able to expand casino operations into Macau.
Among the Macau operations are the Mocha Clubs, as well as Altira Macau and City of Dreams casinos. The company also has involvement in Macau Studio City.
Not content with limiting his Asian operations to the autonomous southern Chinese region, Packer’s company has also made plans to develop a casino resort in the Filipino city of Manila.
Other Business Interests
Packer has not limited his business activities to selling off his family’s old company and building an international casino empire. He has also been behind a few other interesting business ventures.
One of those is RatPac Entertainment, a film production company he formed with Brett Ratner. The idea was to not only produce independent movies, but also to co-produce films with big Hollywood studios such as Warner Bros.
It certainly wasn’t wasted effort on Packer’s part, as the very first film RatPac helped finance was Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. The 2013 film was made at a budget of US$100 million. It broke even five days after its release, and went on to make more than US$700 million at the box office.
In 2014, Packer further expanded his interests by buying Peter Holmes à Court’s share in the National Rugby League club, South Sydney Rabbitohs. Interestingly enough, the purchase of the 37.5 percent ownership share made Packer a partner of actor Russell Crowe.
As you can see, Packer is certainly one of Australia’s, if not the gambling world’s, most colourful characters.