Four Corners: James Packer

jpThere’s been quite a bit of press on Paul Barry’s unauthorised biography of James Packer last week, and no doubt more will follow after Monday night’s Four Corners story.

Barry worked on the ABC series from 1987 to 1994 and this week presents “The Son Will Also Rise” -a look at James Packer’s attempt to create a global gaming empire and the business gambles that cost him billions.

Barry will detail how James Packer sold his father’s media holdings and invested the money in casinos. It will include interviews with people who knew James and his father. They describe the affection and the competition between the two and discuss the high stake deals that made and then lost James Packer a fortune.

Kerry Packer never hid the fact he loved to gamble. Horses or casinos it didn’t really matter, he wagered and lost millions. Now his son James Packer is making even bigger bets buying and building casinos.

James Packer made it clear some time ago he didn’t see himself as a media mogul. After a disastrous foray into telecommunications and the failure of One-Tel he sold his television and magazine interests and embarked on a strategy that would make him the head of a world-wide gambling empire.

On Four Corners reporter Paul Barry tries to answer some major questions about the personality of James Packer and how the formative years he spent with his father have moulded his decision making and his business strategies. Paul Barry talks to people who saw the relationship first hand.

“James is a brilliant strategist. An absolutely brilliant strategist and the strategy he put in place at PBL, the new media strategy, the gaming strategy- I mean how much money has he made?”(Peter Yates, Former Managing Director PBL)

People that knew James and his father say the decision by the younger man to invest in One.Tel provides a real insight into the dynamics between the two men. James was forced to accept responsibility for his decision to invest in the company that went broke in 2001.

Ultimately though One.Tel was just a curtain-raiser for James Packer’s next big move. In 2007 he splurged $3 billion on five separate casino projects in the United States. He made those decisions at the top of the market even as the full impact of the global financial crisis was beginning to be felt.

As one expert in the United States sees it this was a terrible mistake…

“Q. How smart was it to buy at this time? A. Well it wasn’t smart. I mean it was buying at the peak.”

Within months the investments had imploded. His Fontainbleau Resort is now half built and bankrupt. Another project nearby is an empty lot. Two other casinos he purchased are close to broke and his biggest deal of all has been abandoned at a cost of nearly $500 million.

Why did he make such a bold decision and where was the advice that might have stopped him making such a risky gamble?

“He made a huge mistake. He should have seen the bubble coming. He should have seen the debt crisis … he didn’t. But neither did the, you know the hundreds of advisors being paid enormous amounts of money.” (Former Packer insider)

What will this mean for James Packer and the fortune he’s inherited from his father. Will he back off his plan to create a global gaming empire or must he find a way to fulfil what some see as his destiny. To make more money and be more successful than the man he saw as a legend?

“ I don’t think he measures himself in any other way other than billions of dollars.” (former Packer employee)

Four Corners airs Monday at 8.30 pm on ABC 1 and is repeated on 13th October at 11.35 pm.


  1. Personally I found Barry’s report to be one-sided and overly negative and critical. I’m in no way a Packer fan, but I really felt that his coverage could have and should have been much more rounded. Barry almost seemed smug in parts – made me wonder if he’d had his own run-in with big K at some point. Probably, being a journo…

  2. whats even more amazing is that he lost or was it investors 3 billion dollars, and he is not broke, i shudder to think how much money jamie packer has to play with,

  3. As a ‘regular’ person – I too was pretty astounded of James Packer’s casino investments in the US – Cannery? Gateway? What was he thinking??

    They’re ‘locals’ casinos – nothing like Crown – I’m sure there was a strategy – but seriously, the recession in the US was 10x worse than here.

    The Macau investments are justified, regardless of the GFC – these will recover the grow.

    Fontinaebleau and Crown Los Vegas were smart investments – but things turned pear shaped – which is a pity – wrong place wrong time.

    He should have just sat on his money for a while.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.