We had already the story of luck and embezzler, but now today in our spotlight is one man who practically coined the phrase high roller – Kerry Packer. A notorious gambler, who in seconds could raise the bets sky high and scare off even the wealthiest men, like oil sheikhs and arms dealers. You can say that he didn’t see any limits when it came to gambling.
At heart, Kerry Packer had a knack for making money and always looked for chances to enlarge his wealth. He established The World Series of Cricket that later turned out to be among the most popular sporting events in Europe.
The legendary Australian gambler came to this world in 1937. He wasn’t a promising moneymaker in his early days, quite the opposite. His father, who was the owner of two prosperous businesses called him a “family fool”. You see, the dad wasn’t just a successful businessman, he ran Australian Consolidated Press and the Nine Network on top of other numerous smaller companies. And the reason why Kerry was… well, not despised, that is the wrong word, but rather had a somewhat messed up childhood, as he would say himself, later on, was his undiagnosed at that time dyslexia. But where Kerry showed some potential and skill from childhood was sports, especially boxing, rugby and cricket.
Kerry also had an elder brother, who by the way took no interest in their father’s business, so this only had made it harder on our hero after all. So for a long time, the boy stayed in his father’s shadow, even the first job that he got was loading newspapers for one more company, owned by his family.
It’s funny how all these stories have one thing in common. They all start out with the father and son tale.
Step into the Light
In 1974, Kerry’s father died, leaving all inheritance to none other than the family fool. Maybe not being bright in school and years of father’s disapproval forced Kerry to best himself despite all odds. Because he soon managed to turn a $100 million business into a $5 billion empire. I guess he was trying to prove a point, maybe. Or maybe he was just that good, after all, money making was in his blood, like father like son.
Or by the way, moneymaking isn’t the only gene that he apparently inherited from his bloodline. Just like his father before him and his father before him, Kerry Packer got to be obsessed with gambling. Oh yes, we finally got to this part.
And just like he turned out to be better than his predecessors businesswise, his obsession had a level that could be rarely seen in history.
Kerry was the definitive of the high roller. Betting only high stakes in casinos across the globe, in the 80s they gave him the nickname – Prince of Whales.
But, here is the deal, the prince didn’t have much skill or luck to that matter, as the story goes somewhere in the late 90s he lost about $28 mils just under three weeks. Now that takes an incredible amount of bad luck and recklessness. Luckily for him, or let’s not use that word, as luck had nothing to do with it… Thing is, Mr. Packer here, could afford to lose all these ridiculously large sums of money because he managed to accumulate real wealth.
Only fair to say that sometimes he would be on a roll, and be killing it. Most luck would come to him from betting on sports events. Funny, once again the history comes full circle.
What’s perhaps worth separate mentioning is one of his visits to MGM Grand Casino. Apparently this one time Kerry Packer turned the luck to his favor and won over $30 million in a week. Just think about it for a second. And on top of that, in the same trip he won 20 hands in baccarat, in a row, I might add. And this is the high roller we are talking about, so naturally, each hand brought him more than 100 grand.
And this one is the favorite and was his dream all along, although it was never confirmed as absolutely accurate. The myth goes that after winning about 10 million quid (which suggest that the story takes place in Britain of all places, for all of you who are unfamiliar, quid is a British slang word analogy for a buck) and the casino refused their services and asked Mr. Packer to leave because “You’re winning too much”. And that’s what Kerry always wanted to hear, that he was too good and too rich for the casino to handle.
Away from the Table
As you got it, Kerry was not only a notorious gambler but also a smart businessman. However, even his business persona was not so different from the high roller that we got to know. He took risks, but only here in this realm he didn’t rely on luck, or he at least made everyone believe so. Aged 40, he grasped the opportunity behind the growing popularity of cricket and started World Series Cricket. And naturally players from all over the globe came to Australia to join the tournament, and everyone even remotely interested, tuned into Kerry’s own private TV channel.
So came the 1987, and Kerry Packer decided to sell Nine Network, his father’s legacy and one of the most profitable companies to Alan Bond. Kerry got approximately 1 billion out of this deal. You might seem that he hit some sort of crisis and decided that it was time to show his father something. But no…
Three years later he buys it back at the quarter of its original price and 25% of Foxtel pay TV shares on top.
Besides gambling, there were two other things that got Kerry going in life: family and polo. He even created a team of professional polo players called Ellerstina, and Elliston – a polo club.
Unlike most people obsessed with gambling, Kerry had a happy family life. Well, he couldn’t really ruin his wealth by losing it all in a game of baccarat, you would argue that he was too rich for that, but it is a bad argument. History is full of examples where businessmen would obsessively spend their wealth in a casino. But somehow Kerry was unlucky enough to spend millions of dollars and get the fame of a notorious high-roller, but still, he would remain cautious to the point of keeping his sanity. After all it was his family that grounded him back to reality and kept him going.
His ultimate bad luck wasn’t in cards or dice, but his own body, which was failing him. He had a couple of heart attacks and underwent kidney transplantation. Bought his only 5 extra years. He died at the age of 68.
His son established the Kerry Packer charity foundation to honor his name: a ten million dollars fund to provide help to Australian cricket players with injuries.
Same son, who later came out to say that the last words he remembered his father to say were how proud he was of him, and how he should make his own path in life.
James Packer stepped aside from traditional family business and is aiming at building a gambling empire – Crown Resorts.
Like father like son.