Famous Gambler - Kerry Packer.Australia's richest man and legendary gambler passes away from kidney failure.
Kerry Packer, legendary Australian businessman and media mogul, died this Boxing Day at home in Sydney, aged 68. At the time of his death, Packer's personal wealth was estimated to be $5 billion - placing him 94th on Fortune's global rich list.
The bulk of Packer's wealth was generated by Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL), which was inherited from his equally revered businessman father, Sir Frank Packer. Under Kerry's guidance, PBL has grown into a formidable empire, encompassing mass media, professional sports and casino operations - including Melbourne's Crown Casino and investments in Macau with Hong Kong gambling tycoon Stanley Ho in November 2004.
The move by PBL into the gaming sector proved to be one of Packer's most fruitful business manoeuvres, with his casinos now generating nearly half of PBL's annual revenue.
The success of PBL's gaming operations should come as no surprise with Packer himself being famed as one of the most fearless and revered gamblers in the world. The success of both his business dealings and personal life relied heavily upon Packer's gut instincts and his willingness to 'take a punt'.
One of the most remarkable deals in his glittering business career eventuated as a result of this uncanny knack of 'taking a punt' and winning. In 1987 he sold the Sydney and Melbourne stations of his Nine television network to Australian entrepreneur Alan Bond in for $770 million, including shares. When Bond's fortunes tumbled just three years later, Packer bought back the two stations and two more that Bond owned for just $150 million -- one-fifth of his sale price. "You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime and I've had mine," Packer famously said at the time.
Packer's fearless gambling instincts and his massive betting splurges in casinos and on racetracks across the world became the stuff of urban legend. He once told an Australian newspaper after it was reported that he won US$20 million in Las Vegas, "I don't take risks with the company, I take risks which are for my recreation, which sometimes work out and sometimes don't." Depending on who you believe, Packer is said to have won anywhere between $20-40 million dollars over several days at MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 1997. It was enough to sink their quarterly earnings report and get half the casino executives the axe.
Another legendary Packer story, involved a loud-mouthed Texan, also in Vegas. As the tale goes, Packer was far from impressed with the Texan's antics on their blackjack table. "Do you know who I am? I'm worth 60 million dollars, pardner!" says the Texan, stopping to let Packer absorb the magnitude of his wealth, "Sixty million dollars, pardner. That's what I'm worth." The big Australian simply turned and said, "I'll toss you for it!"
Other stories had Packer winning millions of dollars in a single sitting and tipping staff tens of thousands each. After asking an Australian waitress how much her mortgage was, he is said to have left a check for the entire sum as a tip.
Leaving aside his casino gambling, "The Big Fella", as he was known in Australian horseracing circles, was the biggest racehorse punter in the history of Australian racing. He was not a regular racegoer but when he did appear at the track, the betting ring would shudder collectively.
An example that typifies Packer's long love-hate relationship with the bagmen of Australia's racecourses comes from an unconfirmed story of how a leading bookmaker travelled to Packer's office at Channel Nine in North Sydney to collect his monies from the a weekend-long betting battle with Packer.
On this particular Monday, the bookmaker had to collect $5.3 million and after what seemed like an endless wait, Packer's secretary came out with a cheque for $5 million. When the bookmaker complained that the amount was incorrect, the secretary disappeared back into Packer's office, only for "the Big Fella" to appear at the door and bark, "What's wrong?"
The bookmaker explained that the amount involved was $5.3 million, to which Packer replied in typical aplomb, "I only deal in round figures."