James Packer says he once toyed with the idea of a political career, but backed down after his father warned him it was a “seriously bad idea”.
The Australian Billionaire opened up about his former political ambitions in his new biography, The Price of Fortune. According to The Australian, which has seen a copy of the book, Packer said he was approached by Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger in the early 1990s to run for preselection in the seat of Kooyong in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
The seat was left vacant after Liberal leader Andrew Peacock announced his retirement from politics in 1994, and Kroger believed Packer would be a good fit for the role.
While Packer’s political ambitions were first revealed in Pamela Williams’s 1997 book The Victory, this is the first time the Casino boss has spoken publicly about them.
However, while Packer said he was genuinely interested in the career shift, his father, legendary media mogul Kerry Packer, advised him against it.
“I was interested. I spoke to my father about it,” Packer reportedly wrote in his book. “My father said to me that it was a seriously bad idea, in perhaps even more colourful language than that.”
The release of Packer’s book comes after a tumultuous few years in both his private and professional life.
He stepped down as director of Crown Resorts in March, citing mental health reasons. Just days later, he checked himself into a $35,000-a-week rehab facility in America.
Months earlier he had opened up about his financial and family troubles, as well as his failed relationship with pop diva Mariah Carey, in a frank interview with The Weekend Australian Magazine.
“Two years ago I was terrified. I had $2.3 billion of debt at CPH [Consolidated Press Holdings, his private company], 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,” Packer told The Australian‘s Damon Kitney at the time.
“Then a year later I’ve got China falling apart, the Australian casino businesses missing budgets by big amounts, I’ve got Mariah breaking up with me and I’m thinking ‘f…’.”
Packer’s failed relationship with Carey was said to be the catalyst for him to seek help for his mental health.
He faced a string of challenges after his split from wife Erica Baxter in 2013, including a multi-year battle with his sister Gretel over the division of the family business empire. Then in 2016, more than 20 Crown staff were detained in China for allegedly breaching the country’s gaming regulations, and Crown’s Asian resorts suffered during the downturn that hurt the region’s entire gambling sector.
Things didn’t improve in 2017, when Packer’s relationship with Carey, and their acrimonious split, attracted media attention around the world, and the wealthy businessman went from dramatically slimmer, reportedly after lap band surgery, to much heavier – all of which was played out in front of tabloid cameras.