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.
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