WHY WE STILL LOVE JAMES

James Packer’s bi­og­ra­pher DA­MON KIT­NEY speaks to the trou­bled bil­lion­aire and his two ex wives about their un­usu­ally in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE -

TWO of the most im­por­tant women in the life of James Packer, his ex-wives Erica Packer and Jodhi Meares, have re­vealed their pride and ad­mi­ra­tion for his de­ci­sion to pub­licly ac­knowl­edge his bat­tle with men­tal health is­sues.

Speak­ing for the first time since Mr Packer sud­denly re­signed from all of his pub­lic com­mit­ments ear­lier this year to deal with his per­sonal chal­lenges, Erica — the mother of the cou­ple’s three chil­dren In­digo, Jack­son and Em­manuelle — said she was grate­ful men­tal health is­sues were no longer stig­ma­tised in the com­mu­nity.

“Who­ever you are, it’s OK to stick your hand in the air and say, ‘I’m not do­ing so great ... I need help’,” she says.

“I’m proud of James, and that he put his hand up.”

James’ first wife, Jodhi Meares, said she hoped James does what he needs to feel OK in the world.

“And to find some joy and some peace,” she says. “Peace is the high­est hap­pi­ness. Who wants joy? We just want peace. That is what he needs and de­serves. And I think he is mak­ing his way there.

“I think he will come back, 100 per cent he will. This (his March rev­e­la­tion) does not rep­re­sent James not com­ing back. This is part of him com­ing back; he has a lot of stuff to work through, be­cause he has had such a com­pli­cated life.”

Re­mark­ably, through the hor­rors of re­cent years, as he be­came en­gaged to pop star Mariah Carey and then broke off their re­la­tion­ship in Oc­to­ber 2016 as his world spi­ralled out of con­trol, James’ great­est com­fort came from his con­tact with his ex-wives and his mother, Ros.

He still calls his ex-wives, whom he af­fec­tion­ately refers to as “Eri” and “Joda”, his “best friends”.

His re­la­tion­ship with Jodhi has also con­tin­ued at a busi­ness level.

In 2017 James dou­bled his stake in Jodhi’s fash­ion en­ter­prise, the Up­side Cor­po­ra­tion, to 40 per cent, buy­ing out the 20 per cent hold­ing of his Is­raeli bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man and movie pro­ducer friend Arnon Milchan. He is now help­ing her take the brand global.

“We are quite sim­i­lar in many ways ... He is such a kind per­son. He would never be some­one who you wouldn’t re­main friends with. He would not al­low that to hap­pen. That is not in his na­ture,” Meares says.

“He has re­ally evolved in that way. The way he can see things. He re­ally doesn’t have any sort of bit­ter­ness. He does not have that in him.”

Over re­cent years, an­other name has been added to the list of James’ clos­est fe­male con­fi­dantes – his cur­rent part­ner, Cana­dian-born model Kylie Lim. “Kylie is a good per­son, a re­ally good part­ner, and we are tak­ing things slowly, one day at a time,” James says, in his first pub­lic com­ments on Lim. “I’m lucky she’s in my life.” Asked how he has man­aged to stay friends with both his exes, there is a long pause be­fore he even­tu­ally an­swers.

“Erica is my pri­or­ity. She is the mother of my kids. And the kids are my pri­or­ity,” he says, slowly. “Jodhi is a great source of hap­pi­ness and friend­ship in my life. I talk to Erica mul­ti­ple times a day. And I think Jodhi is an in­cred­i­bly spe­cial per­son. I’m just so lucky to have them both in my life.”

Erica Packer now lives in Los An­ge­les, where her ex-hus­band pur­chased the for­mer home of Hol­ly­wood star Danny DeVito ear­lier this year.

The fam­ily vis­ited Aus­tralia over the Easter break in late March 2018, when they trav­elled to both the Packer fam­ily’s es­tate Eller­ston and Erica’s home town of Gunnedah.

“I do miss Aus­tralia and I miss my Aussie friends enor­mously. One by one I’m lur­ing my Aussie friends to come and live in LA! But who knows what the fu­ture brings? Five years ago I would never have thought I’d

be liv­ing in Los An­ge­les on my own with the kids. I’ve given up try­ing to plan!’ Erica says.

“James and I will al­ways fig­ure out to­gether what is the best for our chil­dren and go from there.”

She says it has been fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant that she and James re­main close, es­pe­cially for the sake of the chil­dren. “We are a fam­ily no mat­ter what. As I said ear­lier, fam­i­lies come in all dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes and my fam­ily is my high­est pri­or­ity; the kids al­ways come first.”

Erica ex­plains that she still has a deep re­gard for James.

“I first fell in love with James for the fol­low­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics: his kind­ness, cu­rios­ity, tenac­ity, and en­thu­si­asm for life,” she says.

“These traits are the fun­da­men­tal rea­son why James and I con­tinue to have a lov­ing and re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship.”

De­spite spec­u­la­tion to the con­trary, James has not sought in re­cent times to rec­on­cile with Erica. Rather, Erica’s friends say she just wants James to be a happy and healthy dad for their kids. James him­self says he felt in 2013 and con­tin­ues to feel “enor­mous guilt” about the fail­ure of their mar­riage.

“It was en­tirely my fault. I fol­lowed (Erica) to Amer­ica in my own way,” he says. “I knew I should be near her and the kids, and our break-up is my big­gest fail­ure. I think in some ways I have never got­ten over it.” So what does he be­lieve are the prospects of a re­u­nion? His re­ply is short: “I’m not sure Erica would want to.”

He says to her ut­most credit, Erica has “never poi­soned the chil­dren (against him), even one-mil­lionth of one per cent. For that I am in­cred­i­bly grate­ful. But my fam­ily lives in LA and that is just the re­al­ity of things.”

James says that whether they will even­tu­ally move to Aus­tralia — when he makes one of his fam­ily homes his apart­ment in the new Crown Syd­ney de­vel­op­ment — is en­tirely a de­ci­sion for their mother.

“That is a de­ci­sion for Erica, and a ques­tion you will need to ask her. But at the mo­ment, I think that will be un­likely. I think that Los An­ge­les is a lot less pub­lic for her and the kids,” he says.

But James is de­ter­mined to play an ac­tive role in the lives of his chil­dren.

“Peo­ple change when they have kids,” he says.

“The kids have changed my out­look on life. Even if I let my mar­riage fail when I shouldn’t have. Your pri­or­i­ties change. It is a pri­or­ity for me to be around my kids when I can be. They are my favourite peo­ple.”

For all the wreck­age that has been left be­hind in his clos­est re­la­tion­ships, he still has a group of women and a lov­ing fam­ily who play a fun­da­men­tal role in his life.

In this sense, James would al­ways ac­knowl­edge one im­por­tant point: that de­spite his tur­bu­lent past, he en­joys a for­tu­nate life.

James Packer and Jodhi Meares at Noosa in their court­ing days.

Packer with his mother Ros; and (be­low) with Mariah Carey.

Packer with ex-wife Erica, and their chil­dren In­digo, Jack­son and Em­manuelle; and (be­low right) his cur­rent girl­friend Kylie Lim.

THE PRICE OF FOR­TUNE: THE UN­TOLD STORY OF BE­ING JAMES PACKER BY DA­MON KIT­NEY WILL BE PUB­LISHED BY HARPERCOLLINS AUS­TRALIA ON OC­TO­BER 22. YOU CAN PRE- OR­DER AT BOOKTOPIA AND AP­PLE

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