When To Mount An Intervention
A new biography of James Packer tells how a trusted friend intervened to save the billionaire businessman from disaster. In The Price of Fortune: The Untold Story of Being James Packer, Damon Kitney recounts the events of early 2016 when Packer was poised to marry the US singer Mariah Carey at a time when family and business matters threatened to overwhelm him.
Packer had borrowed more than $500 million to finance a division of the Packer family fortune with his sister. The share price of his company, Crown Resorts, had slumped. And the Australian Tax Office presented the company with an unexpected tax bill of $362 million arising out of a casino acquisition several years previously. At the same time he was engaged to Mariah Carey and soon to marry her in Bora Bora in French Polynesia.
The trusted friend in question was fellow Australian billionaire Kerry Stokes. Packer admitted to being in a desperate and confused state when Stokes and his wife visited Packer at his home in Aspen in February 2016. He agreed to let Stokes take over his private affairs and flew to Israel, where he was looked after by another old friend for a short time.
‘We agreed it would be good if he spent some time in Israel,’ Stokes recalls. ‘Away from all the controversies and the pressures and the intensities… My concern was that [he and Mariah] were both in bad places and that James needed some space.’
Stokes effectively postponed the wedding, arranged for Packer’s private jet to be docked for unscheduled maintenance, and prevented the purchase of a $250,000 wedding dress. ‘I saw Mariah and James together,’ Stokes says. ‘The times they were together, they seemed truly happy with one another. I just thought it had moved too quickly for James and he was being railroaded. I was more concerned about the influence of her agent, Stella.’
While in Israel Packer was diagnosed with a mental illness and put on heavy medication for several months. After he returned to the US in March 2016, he was treated at a clinic in Boston. Although he remained close to Carey, their marriage never went ahead.
‘I have wrestled with mental health issues at times in my life – depression and anxiety – especially in times of extreme stress,’ Packer says. ‘I have big mood swings.’ Currently, he continues to be on heavy medication. ‘For me, it is an introduction to the American medical system. I feel very dulled, very dulled,’ he says. ‘I have an appointment with a psychiatrist once a week that I do over FaceTime. Changing my medications is something that my doctors take very seriously. I am not sure I really see a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of getting off the medications I am on. Which sort of reminds me why health is 18 per cent of the US GDP. You get caught on the treadmill.’
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