8 Dec

James Packer: The Man behind Australia’s Casino Industry

Australia casinos mogul James PackerUnless you’ve been living under a rock in the Outback, you’ve surely heard the name James Packer. With multiple high-stakes business ventures and successful investments, he’s one of the wealthiest men in Australia, best known for his dominant leadership of Crown Resorts.

James Douglas Packer was born into vast wealth, but becoming an elite Australian casino mogul was his own doing. He is the son of the late Kerry Packer, a shrewd businessman and frivolous gambler who often won – and more often, lost – millions of dollars with each trip to the casinos. That alone could have influenced James’ decision to invest so heavily into the casino resort market.

James is also the grandson of Sir Frank Packer, and great-grandson of R. C. Packer, the man who originally built the Packer media empire when he founded the The Daily Guardian in the early 1900’s. Over the years, that family business grew tremendously, producing Consolidated Press Holdings and its subsidiary, Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, both of which James Packer assumed control of as the rightful heir.

Kerry and James Packer

James Packer (right) with father Kerry Packer (left)

James Packer Early Life

In his early life, James proved that a college education isn’t always necessary to be a successful businessman. At least, not if you inherit enough wealth and investments to start with.

After graduating from Cranbrook School with an HSC, James Packer went straight to work as a jackeroo at his father’s Newcastle Waters cattle station. Later, he said he never bothered with university because he “didn’t have the marks” for it.

But Packer didn’t need that. His sharp mind for business was already evident at the turn of the millennium when he acquired stakes in online classified services, SEEK and CarSales. He felt the newspaper classified his prior generations had invested so heavily in would be overtaken by the internet, and he was right.

In 2009, he sold most of his 25% stake in SEEK, purchased for $33 million in 2003, for $440 million. In 2005, he convinced his family’s Australian Consolidate Press to acquire 41% stake in CarSales for $100 million, and that investment has since grown to over $460 million in value.

James Inherits the Packer Empire

When James Packer’s father passed away in December of 2005, he immediately became the wealthiest man in Australia, but he began to shift away from the media business. He wanted to invest in casinos, entertainment and tourism. He sold large quantities of shares in Channel Nine, Australian Consolidated Press and others to raise equity for his new ventures.

Then in May 2007, he divested the gaming assets of Publishing and Broadcasting Limited to form Crown Resorts Limited. A few other bad investments saw his overall wealth drop by around $1 billion, but Australia’s Crown Casinos were an immense success that quickly expanded to the overseas market in Macau.

By October of 2013, Crown’s worth was estimated at over $11 billion. Packer’s Australian casinos, Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth, now feature well over 2,000 hotel rooms and luxury villas, immense gaming floors with private VIP areas, and all the affluent amenities of an upscale integrated resort. A third casino, Crown Sydney, is scheduled to open in 2020.

Packer’s company also controls two casinos in Macau, including the City of Dreams and b, and as of 2011, claimed 100% interest in London’s Aspinall Club, since rebranded Crown Aspinall’s.

In 2014, Forbes estimated James Packers wealth at US$6.6 billion (AU$8.85bn). Following his resignation from Chairman of Crown Resorts in 2015 (he still owns 53% of the company), the latest 2016 results have him listed at #6 among the wealthiest people in Australia with US$3.5 billion (AU$4.69bn).