Kerry Packer Bio
In 1937, one of the biggest names in Australian media was born-Kerry Packer. He not only owned the Nine TV network, but he also owned Australian Consolidate Press. He eventually merged the two companies to form Publishing and Broadcasting Limited.
More importantly to sports fans, Kerry Packer founded World Series Cricket.
Kerry Packer was not just a media figure and corporate exec, though. He was one of the richest and most interesting high roller gamblers in history.
This page details his biography as a gambler.
Kerry Packer - The High Roller's Youth
Sir Frank Packer was an Australian businessman who ran both Australian Consolidate Press and the Nine Network.
Gretel Bullmore was the daughter of a Scottish rugby union player, Herbert Bullmore.
Together, they were responsible for the birth of Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer in December 1937.
Kerry Packer was not an only child. He had an older brother named Clyde.
Kerry Packer was an athlete growing up. He boxed and played both cricket and rugby. He didn't make good grades, and some speculate that he may have been dyslexic.
In 1974, when Kerry Packer was 37, his father died, leaving him $100 million in assets which included his media empire. His older brother, Clyde, had been written out of the will two years earlier.
Kerry Packer the Businessman
Before Kerry Packer, cricket wasn't much of a a moneymaker. Once Packer decided to start showing the sport on television, it became a profitable sport.
Packer was responsible for more in the business world than just media outlets and popularizing sporting events.
He also owned, invested in, and managed multiple businesses, mostly in the travel and gambling industry. Probably the most famous business venture in this area is the Crown Casino in Melbourne, which is still one of the most successful casinos in the country of Australia.
Politicians and other businessmen had enormous respect for Packer's business acumen. In some respects, he shared similarities with American investor and businessman Warren Buffett.
But unlike Buffett, Packer came from money. He was a far cry from a rags to riches story.
Packer didn't lead a charmed life, though, and not all of his businesses prospered. One.Tel, a telephone company that Kerry Packer's son, James, had a huge interest in, went bankrupt in 2001.
Kerry Packer didn't just own businesses, either. He also owned a significant amount of land in Australia. This worked out well when rubies were found in 2003 on one of his properties.
Besides media companies, travel and casino businesses, and land, the Packer family had large stakes in petrochemicals and engineering. They also mined for diamonds and coal.
Being a high roller in the gambling world takes money. Kerry Packer had money.
World Series Cricket
In his home country, Kerry Packer was best known as a media mogul.
But in the rest of the world, he was most famous as the founder of World Series Cricket. Many of the best cricket players in the world left their international teams in order to join his new league. This was controversial with the authorities regulating the sport.
It's hard to talk about Kerry Packer and his situation with World Series Cricket without also mentioning a specific player-Tony Greig. He was an English cricket player who acted as a leader in terms of getting players to leave their previous organizations and joining World Series Cricket.
Even after retiring as a player, Tony Greig remained an important part of the Packer empire. He was a commentator on the Nine Network until he died in 2012.
Kerry Packer's main goal was to buy the rights to broadcast Australian cricket. He fought hard and spent plenty of money fighting the established forces in cricket in the courts. For the most part, he succeeded, but it took the hiring of almost a dozen attorneys in the United Kingdom to pull this off.
For almost 40 years, he was a huge figure in the cricket sport.
Kerry Packer's Gambling Career
Most of our site's readers are going to be interested in Packer's career as a gambler. This section explores that aspect of his life in detail.
One of the more entertaining anecdotes about Kerry Packer gambling involves a run of bad luck that lasted three full weeks in several casinos in London in 1999. He reportedly lost over $28 million in Australian dollars. This was the biggest gambling loss in the history of English casinos.
He's also said to have won $33 million gambling at the MGM Grand in Vegas. Trips where he had winnings of $7million or more were common, too.
When you read accounts of casinos which get nervous about entertaining a high roller, Kerry Packer is the kind of gambler these companies worried about. Sure, in the long run, as long these whales stick with games where the house has an edge, the casino's eventually going to win all the money.
But everyone has strings of good luck, and when you're winning between $7 million and $33 million over the course of a week or two... well, let's just say that you could do some serious damage to a casino's quarterly profits.
Some gamblers are friendly enough, but Packer was infamous for getting angry. Woe to any reporter with the temerity to question what Packer was up to in a casino.
Our favorite anecdote about Packer involves Bob Stupak ay the Stratosphere Casino. Packer was playing in a high-stakes poker tournament there with a Texan. (Why these kinds of stories always involve a Texas is anyone's guess.)
But apparently this Texan had made a lot of money in the oil business, and he bragged to Packer that he was worth $60 million.
Packer was worth way more than this, of course, so he offered to flip the arrogant Texan for his entire fortune.
Packer didn't just love poker, either. He was also a famous roulette player. At one point in the 1990s, it's rumored that he lost over $15 million playing roulette at four tables simultaneously. These casinos had no complaints about taking his action.
What Kind of Family Life Did Kerry Packer Have?
As a boy, Packer suffered from poliomyelitis. He spent nine months in an iron lung. His weak constitution seemed to have disappointed his father, who once called his son "the family idiot". In fact, his older brother Clyde was originally supposed to get the reins of the family business, but his falling out with his father resulted in Kerry gaining full control of the company.
The adult Kerry Packer was a devoted family man who was married to Roslyn Packer for 42 years. They had a daughter and a son, and he had grandchildren.
Like most gamblers and wealthy men, Packer also had his share of affairs. One of his most famous mistresses was Carol Lopes, a model who killed herself after being dumped by Packer. Ita Buttrose and Julie Trethowan also had sexual relationships with Packer. Both worked for him, making it apparent that Packer had no problem mixing business with pleasure.
Death of a Gambler
A lifelong smoker, Packer suffered from failing health in his later years. He had at least four heart attacks. In 1990, he had one heart attack so bad that he was clinically dead for six minutes.
One of the perks of being rich is excellent medical care, though. He was revived by the paramedics and had a bypass operation from Dr. Victor Chang. But it wasn't just money that saved his life. Good luck played a role, too.
The ambulance had a defibrillator. In 1990, that was uncommon equipment. If he had gotten the wrong ambulance, Packer would have died then.
Kerry Packer was grateful enough for his good luck to donate enough money to the ambulance services in New South Wales that they were all able to be outfitted with a portable defibrillator. This might have been motivated by self-interest, too.
His kidneys also had problems for the last couple of decades of his life. He even had to have a kidney transplant.
His kidneys finally failed the day after Christmas in 2005. He had just turned 68 years old. He died at home in Sydney, Australia. He was surrounded by family and ready to go. He'd told his doctors that he didn't want to be kept alive by dialysis, as he was tired and wanted to die with dignity.
Kerry Packer was a larger-life-figure in the Australian business world.
But he was also one of the most interesting and high rolling gamblers in the world. He was the kind of gambler casinos feared and loved at the same time.
Australia lost a legend when he died in 2005.
Author: Randy Ray
Updated: December 2016
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