James Packer marks half century of fame from cricket to polo field

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Billionaire James Packer is celebrating his 50th birthday “quietly” with a “few laughs” but admits to “some real regrets” as he marks the milestone, though he remains adamant he still has “lots to be grateful for”.

The “low key” celebrations to mark his half century are taking place at his Argentinian ranch Ellerstina about as far away as you can get from the bright lights of Hollywood or the corridors of power back here in Sydney.


Private Sydney: James Packer marks half century of fame

Billionaire James Packer says he is celebrating his 50th birthday “quietly” with a “few laughs” but admits he has “some real regrets” as he marks the milestone, though he remains adamant he still has “lots to be grateful for”. Andrew Hornery investigates.

A group of about 10 guests includes beloved mother Ros and big sister Gretel,  who have endured many a storm with the gaming mogul.  However, many of the glitzy trappings we have long come to associate with James Packer, from his diva pop star girlfriends to his gleaming superyachts, will be absent.

As Packer told PS exclusively about his birthday: “I’m here at my place in Argentina with a few friends having a quiet time. A few laughs, some real regrets, and lots to be grateful for. Looking forward to the upcoming chapters.”

New beginnings are very much Packer’s current focus following a turbulent 12 months in both his personal and business lives.

Indeed it is somewhat ironic that the prince of one of Australia’s great media dynasties has himself had an awkward relationship with the press, though it was a fait accompli that Packer’s life would be covered in minute detail, often obsessively so.

From his days at the prestigious Tudor House and Cranbrook schools to young romances and heartaches, Packer got an early taste of fame, and was photographed playing cricket in the Herald which clearly identified him as Kerry Packer’s heir apparent.

ONE TIME USE ONLY - NO ARCHIVING ONLY FOR USE IN PS ****STRICTLY NO OTHER USAGE**** James Packer with his three children - son Jackson, eldest daughter Indigo and youngest Emmanuelle for PS - these shots are NOT TO BE ARCHIVED one use only. For PS, Photo: supplied ****** FOR PS ONLY - ONE TIME USE ******

James Packer with two of his three children, son Jackson left and eldest daughter Indigo, right. Photo: Supplied

The scrutiny has only grown. Business triumphs and tribulations, his religious beliefs, his long fascination with celebrities, even his waistline, have received plenty of ink, and not just in this column.

Why? It’s a difficult question to answer concisely, and has as much to do with the legacy of the Packer name and the huge, looming shadows cast by both the late Sir Frank Packer and Kerry Packer over this country as it does with James Packer’s own intriguing life story.

A 10-year-old James Packer playing cricket inside the RAS members building at the old showground when rain stopped play, with players Derek Underwood and Asif Iqbal Fairfax Media.

A 10-year-old James Packer playing cricket inside the RAS members building at the old showground when rain stopped play, with players Derek Underwood and Asif Iqbal Fairfax Media. Photo: David James Bartho.

There have been the weddings. His first in 1999 was billed as the “wedding of the decade” in The Australian Women’s Weekly. He tied the knot with bikini model Jodhi Meares. Elton John played and the celebrations were among the most lavish Sydney’s silver tail enclave of Bellevue Hill had ever seen. Indeed PS spent most of it standing in the Packer family’s driveway hoping to glean a nugget or two of detail.

His second wedding in 2007 to Erica Baxter was equally decadent, having taken over one of the most expensive hotels in the world, Antibe’s Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, for the celebrations. Absolutely everyone who was anyone was there, with his then best buddy and Scientology cheerleader Tom Cruise constantly by his side. PS spent a week clutching a rock in the Mediterranean to cover the extravaganza. 

A young James Packer greets his father Kerry Packer at Sydney Airport in 1977, with big sister Gretel to the right.

A young James Packer greets his father Kerry Packer at Sydney Airport in 1977, with big sister Gretel to the right. Photo: Trevor Dallen

There have been bust-ups, from his punch-up with his former best man David Gyngell to the media bruising he copped when he broke up with pop diva Mariah Carey. All of it made the front page.

Of course there have also been happy stories, from the births of his three much loved children to his business successes, including the burgeoning casino and movie empires he has poured his life into building. He has also had success on the polo field and with his stake in the South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

But the happy stories don’t carry quite the same bite as the not-so-happy ones, which have included the implosion of his second marriage, his Crown empire being embroiled in the Chinese scandal and his total withdrawal from Hollywood.

But today is a time for reflection on both the good and bad times for James Packer.

Unlike his birthday celebrations, the past five decades have been anything but “low key” for one of the most photographed and scrutinised men in the country.

Sandilands adds to Mosman mansion’s colourful history, neighbours see red

From its homewares stores selling French provincial objet d’art to its legions of ladies in pearls and bulletproof bobs, Mosman is about as un-Kyle Sandilands as you can get, which was just how some of the locals liked it.

Kyle Sandilands and Imogen Anthony Instagram

Kyle Sandilands and Imogen Anthony Instagram Photo: Instagram

Then the millionaire breakfast radio host and his exhibitionist/fashionista/pole dancer/nudist girlfriend Imogen Anthony moved into the hood, taking up residence in one of the most exclusive enclaves in the suburb and shelling out $4000 a week rent for a mansion with some of the most spectacular harbour views in Sydney.

PS hears some neighbours are not impressed with Sandilands’ fleet of expensive cars, including his Bentley, a rather conspicuous presence around the usually quiet Burran Avenue.

KIIS 1065 shock jock, Kyle Sandilands.

KIIS 1065 shock jock, Kyle Sandilands. Photo: Imogen Anthony/Instagram

“The neighbours are beside themselves,” PS was informed this week by one local.

Imogen Anthony (L), girlfriend of Kyle Sandilands, and a friend.

Imogen Anthony (L), girlfriend of Kyle Sandilands, and a friend. Photo: Imogen Anthony/Instagram

And just who are those neighbours? One is John Messara, the millionaire thoroughbred horse breeder who owns the prominent Arrowfield stud near Scone.

But Sandilands’ new residence has had a colourful history itself, having been owned by disgraced HIH founder Ray Williams. The property featured in the corporate collapse of the insurance giant when it was revealed Williams’ associate Brad Cooper agreed to pay $5.6 million for the Mosman home.

Today the listed owner is Shelley Kathleen Wilson, wife of notoriously secretive professional gambler Zeljko Ranogajec. Sandilands negotiated a lower rental deal for the property, empty since last November.

And what does Sandilands get for his dough? According to the real estate blurb the “exquisitely private waterfront home enjoys spellbinding views spanning the full breadth of Middle Harbour”.

The property boasts spectacular views from all three levels, and among the four bedrooms is the master suite with its own “Hollywood style ensuite and spa” for Kyle and Imogen to throw a jacuzzi party in.

Bling-adorned underworld figure yells blue murder at Crime Writers Festival 

Writers’ festivals are usually sedate affairs but this one had audience members on the edge of their seats.

Last weekend at the Justice & Police Museum, a colourful underworld figure dressed in black and adorned with a considerable amount of gold bling got a fraction worked up during a session called “Blue Murders”.

After all it was BAD: Sydney Crime Writers Festival and detectives turned authors Duncan McNab and Clive Small were chatting about corruption within the NSW Police. As former assistant commissioner Small held forth on the now jailed-for-life ex cop Roger Rogerson, the man in black proffered his own robust views about gangland warfare and police corruption.

It was none other than ageing enforcer Tom Domican who spent five years in jail over the attempted murder of Chris “Mr Rent-a-Kill” Flannery, but that conviction was later quashed.

Colourful Sydney identity and former union official Tom Domican writing his book on his property in the Swan Valley outside Perth on Wednesday 2, March, 2005

Colourful Sydney identity and former union official Tom Domican writing his book on his property in the Swan Valley outside Perth on Wednesday 2, March, 2005 Photo: Peter Morris

Domican could be regarded as a bit of an expert on “Blue Murders”. Over the years he racked up one murder, one attempted murder and five conspiracy to murder charges and beat the lot.

It is understood Domican, who has been living in Dublin for some years, is back in Australia looking for a publisher for his own version of Sydney’s gangland wars.

Interstellar dance night

Sydney Dance Company dancers are preparing for lift-off, as the final countdown to the company’s annual fundraising party tonight, Dance Noir, gets under way.

This year’s theme, Interstellar, has prompted a meteor storm of intergalactic decorations and “cosmic choreography” in Pier 2/3 on the Wharf.

Among the guests this year are Carla Zampatti (will she be channelling Barbarella?), heiresses and arts patrons Beau and Paris Neilson, property maven Monika Tu, Ian “Flash Gordon” Thorpe, Nicole and Adam O’Neil, Nabil Gazal, Hayley Baillie, Scott and Alina Barlow, jeweller Jan Logan and Sydney Dance Company Board members Karen Moses, Brett Clegg, Jean-Marc Carriol, Kiera Grant, Pam Bartlett and Mark Hassell.

Karl’s flash wheels

So many brands, so little time. He may be one of the best-paid personalities on Australian television but, when it comes to protecting his freebies, Channel Nine’s $2 million man Karl Stefanovic knows which side his bread is buttered on.

A long time “friend” of Mercedes Benz, Stefanovic has been driving some seriously flash Mercs around for several years in return for hosting gigs on behalf of the German car maker.

Which is possibly why he looked so uncomfortable being photographed last week behind the wheel of another German brand – the equally flash Audi.

Karl Stefanovic and girlfriend Jasmine Yarbrough hop into a luxury Audi last week.

Karl Stefanovic and girlfriend Jasmine Yarbrough hop into a luxury Audi last week. Photo: Diimex

Indeed, Stefanovic appears to have a problem even saying the rival Audi brand. During his on-air rant this week claiming he would boycott the Logies if it left Melbourne, he compared it to “moving Hamilton Island Race Week to Fitzroy Island”.

The event has been called Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for over a decade. Without Audi’s dollars, the annual sailing extravaganza wouldn’t happen, which makes Stefanovic’s comparison of moving it to Fitzroy Island somewhat redundant.

Nobody making a name

Australian Josh Kearney is making a name for himself in Las Vegas after winning approvals to build a $1 billion extreme sports park with a 15-storey hotel on the south of the infamous Strip.

Clark County commissioners voted 7-0 to approve plans for the 130 acre project. Kearney’s plans include a man-made white-water rapids lake, three cable wakeboarding lakes, an indoor mountain biking track, an indoor skydiving attraction and a pool with water slides and “dunk tank towers”.

It also would feature an activity tower with rock climbing and bungee jumping, zip coasters throughout the park and a 640-room hotel-casino with convention space, restaurants and two rooftop swimming pools.

And exactly who is Kearney? Sadly, he is yet to respond to PS’s overtures but he claimed to the Las Vegas Review Journal earlier this year to be a 37-year-old Australian with an engineering background who lives between Vegas and Los Angeles. He also claimed to have done similar developments in Australia and that he comes from a family of developers.

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