James Packer Resigns from Crown Resorts for Personal Reasons
James Packer resigned as director of Crown Resorts today, citing “personal reasons” and giving no additional details. This is the second time in three years Packer has resigned from Australia’s largest casino company, which is the source of much of the billionaire’s wealth.
Consolidated Press Holdings, an investment company owned and controlled by James Packer, gave a different account for Packer’s resignation. Consolidated Press said in a statement, “Mr. Packer is suffering from mental health issues.”
The statement from Consolidated, which was made to the Australian Securities Exchange, added, “At this time, he intends to step back from all commitments.”
John Alexander, executive chairman of Crown, said in a press release, “We have appreciated James’ contribution to the Board and respect his decision to step down from his role as a director at this time.”
Ros Packer Flies to See Her Son
Australian news sources noted that Roslyn Packer, James’s 80-year old mother, had flown from Sydney to the United States to visit her son. Ros Packer was filmed in a wheelchair moving through the airport, underscoring the level of concern that would move her to fly out of country to see her only son.
Since his father, the famous Australia media mogul, Kerry Packer, died in 2005, James Packer’s career has been one of amazing highs and lows. In the couple of years after he inherited much of his father’s business empire, James Packer sold many of Kerry Packer’s media holdings in order to focus on the family’s casino business: Crown Resorts.
By 2007, Crown Resorts was already Australia’s biggest casino company, owning successful land-based casinos like Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth. Packer’s company was also 33% owner of Melco Crown, the Macau-based casino company which operated City of Dreams Macau and Altira casinos (and eventually built Studio City) in Macau. Packer was expanding into Las Vegas, as he was vested in the Fontainebleau casino development. James Packer was estimated to be worth $7 billion, making him the wealthiest person in Australia.
James Packer Lost $4 Billion
Then the Global Recession hit. The Fontainebleau project went bankrupt, costing Packer and fellow investors over $2 billion. Due to financial write-downs in most industries and slumping revenues throughout Crown’s casino empire, financial publications reported that James Packer’s wealth declined to $3 billion.
By that time, James and his sister, Gretel, had been embroiled in a years-long squabble over Kerry Packer’s fortune. After ten years of dispute, Gretel would receive a $1.25 billion settlement in 2015. In the same years, James had married Erica Baxter, an Australian model and singer, though their marriage (Packer’s second) ended in 2012.
Melco Crown Investment
James Packer’s fortunes began to turn. The Melco Crown investment, made by Kerry Packer in the last years of his life, paid great dividends. As Macau surpassed Las Vegas as the world’s biggest gambling destination, Melco Crown generated tremendous revenues for Crown Limited.
Using those funds, Crown made a successful challenge to Tabcorp/Echo Entertainment in Sydney, winning a license from New South Wales to build Crown Barangaroo and end the Star Sydney’s long casino monopoly in Australia’s largest city. Packer sought to win licensing in Queensland.
Melco developed Studio City on the Cotai Strip, while building City of Dreams Manila in the Philippines. Packer discussed building a casino in Japan, while also fulfilling his long dream of developing a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. A year later, Packer’s life began a spiral.
David Gyngell Brawl
By 2014, Crown Resorts was at the peak of its wealth and global operations. That year, Crown bought 62% of Crownbet from Matthew Tripp. Unconventional events happened. For instance, in May 2014, James Packer and fellow billionaire, David Gyngell, had a street brawl, presumably over the men’s relationship with Gyngell’s former girlfriend, Miranda Kerr — the Australian model of Victoria’s Secret fame.
A month later, in June 2014, business matters took a downturn. It was in the summer of 2014 that Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crackdown came to Macau, costing the Macau casino companies as much as 40% to 50% of their value in an 18-month period. James Packer began dating American pop diva Mariah Carey in the summer of 2015. In August 2015, James Packer stepped down as Chairman of Crown Resorts amid “mixed results” in their financials.
In December 2015, he stepped down from the company’s Board of Directors. James Packer had an incident with Crown Melbourne security, over a misunderstanding that happened on New Year’s Eve 2015/2016.
James Packer’s Engagement
Packer announced his engagement to Mariah Carey in January 2016. They vacationed in Israel with her kids and he seemed happy. He formed a film company with Hollywood producer, Brett Ratner, and hobnobbed with global celebrities. Packer also befriended Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and eventually was caught up in one of Netanyahu’s corruption scandals.
In October 2016, Crown Resorts had to leave the Chinese market. 18 Crown employees were detained by Chinese authorities in an advertising scandal. Crown’s advertising division had broken Chinese gaming laws and those 18 workers remained under arrest for 9 months. The scandal brought James Packer back to his company in December 2016, as he said Crown would focus on Australian business in the year ahead.
That year brought a split from Mariah Carey, as the two broke off their engagement in the runup to their wedding. In an interview with The Australian newspaper, Packer said, “I was at a low point in my personal life. She was kind, exciting and fun. Mariah is a woman of substance. But it was a mistake for her and a mistake for me. Two years ago I was terrified. I had $2.3 billion of debt at CPH, over $3 billion of debt at Crown, I’d just appointed Rob [Rankin as chairman of Crown], Macau was falling over and [sister] Gretel was on my doorstep.”
James Packer After Mariah Carey
With his longstanding feud with Gretel and his various foreign entanglements ended, James Packer seemed to focus on building Crown Resorts’s portfolio again. Now, only 15 months after he resumed effective control over Crown Resorts, James Packer has resigned again.
In December 2017, James Packer sold about $100 million worth of Crown shares, which kept his stake in the company at 47%. Though he does not hold a majority share, 47% of the company is enough to control Crown Resorts, due to the small amount of support he would need to carry votes. One hopes the best for Mr. Packer as he convalesces in the United States.