Packer sib­lings set­tle for peace

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - DA­MON KITNEY

James Packer has made peace with his sis­ter Gre­tel and agreed to give her to­tal own­er­ship of the fam­ily’s Eller­ston pas­toral prop­erty in the NSW Hunter Val­ley, af­ter a bit­ter fall­ing-out be­tween the sib­lings over ne­go­ti­a­tions to carve up the Packer fam­ily for­tune.

Mr Packer re­veals in a new bi­og­ra­phy on his life, The Price of For­tune, that he and his sis­ter have struck a fi­nal agree­ment that re­solves all obli­ga­tions be­tween them, end­ing dis­cus­sions to set­tle Kerry Packer’s will that stretched over al­most three years and were — at times — deeply ac­ri­mo­nious.

In early March, weeks be­fore Mr Packer pub­licly re­signed from the board of his casino com­pany Crown Re­sorts to deal with his men­tal health is­sues, he and his sis­ter re­solved to make peace.

Their mother, Ros, is said to have played a key role in the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion when she vis­ited her son in Aspen in the first part of the year.

“My sis­ter and I have made up,” Mr Packer says in the bi­og­ra­phy. “I want to thank David Gon­ski, Matthew Grounds and my mother for help­ing both Gre­tel and I make peace. I’m so happy. I love my sis­ter.”

Mr Gon­ski is an ex­ecu­tor of Kerry Packer’s will, along­side Mel­bourne busi­ness­man Lloyd Wil­liams.

Matthew Grounds, the Aus­tralasian head of in­vest­ment bank UBS and a long-time ad­viser to James Packer, played a role in early ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the sib­lings to di­vide the fam­ily for­tune.

Gre­tel Packer was ad­vised in the ne­go­ti­a­tions by Cale­do­nia In­vest­ments chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer Will Vi­cars and Syd­ney fi­nancier Michael Triguboff.

In her first pub­lic com­ments on the fi­nan­cial sep­a­ra­tion from her brother, which made her a bil­lion­aire in her own right, Ms

Packer says in the bi­og­ra­phy: “I love my brother very much and am very happy that he and I have been able to ne­go­ti­ate this set­tle­ment.

“I don’t think there was ever go­ing to be an ‘easy’ time for us to do this and it was al­ways, more likely than not, go­ing to be dif­fi­cult. The short-term eas­ier op­tion would have been to leave it for our six chil­dren to work out … and that would have been un­fair to them and lazy of us.

“The fact that we didn’t take that route is some­thing I think we should both be proud of.”

The first agree­ment be­tween the sib­lings, struck in Septem­ber 2015, was re­port­edly worth $1.25 bil­lion and in­cluded a lump sum of more than $200 mil­lion.

Ms Packer and her chil­dren also re­ceived a se­ries of smaller se­cured cash pay­ments over the com­ing years and re­tained a mi­nor resid­ual in­ter­est in the Packer fam­ily com­pany CPH.

On Christ­mas Day 2015, a re­vised $1.25bn deal was agreed, run­ning over a shorter time­frame, which helped Mr Packer re­duce his sub­stan­tial per­sonal debt po­si­tion.

Ms Packer re­port­edly emerged with stakes in Crown and US on­line real es­tate com­pany Zil­low, as well as cash hold­ings, a resid­ual in­ter­est in CPH and own­er­ship of the Packer fam­ily’s long-time sea­side re­treat at Palm Beach, north of Syd­ney.

The re­cast deal also gave Ms Packer a one-quar­ter share of Eller­ston. The bi­og­ra­phy re­veals that it was dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions over Eller­ston that the sib­lings re­ally fell out.

Mr Packer now says he has deep re­grets about the dis­pute but wants to make clear that his ac­tions in the ne­go­ti­a­tions were bet­ter than his words.

“Even though we have a frame­work ar­range­ment that spans many years, I sep­a­rately ar­ranged, with­out obli­ga­tion, to make funds avail­able to Gre­tel and her chil­dren early,” he says.

“To do that put me un­der fi­nan­cial pres­sure.

“I ac­cept at times my words were un­for­giv­able to Gre­tel and Will. I hope my ac­tions were bet­ter than my words. I can un­der- stand my sis­ter want­ing to be bought out. I can un­der­stand my sis­ter say­ing: ‘James, Will Vi­cars is go­ing to be a bet­ter cus­to­dian of my money than you.’

“I just wish we had all done it bet­ter, and I cer­tainly take my share of the blame for that.”

Un­der the fi­nal agree­ment be­tween the sib­lings, which in­cluded some as­sets and other prop­erty, Ms Packer will even­tu­ally move to take 100 per cent con­trol of Eller­ston.

She also took own­er­ship of Kerry Packer’s su­per yacht, the Arc­tic P.

In an an­nounce­ment to the Aus­tralian Se­cu­ri­ties Ex­change last year that it was sell­ing its in­ter­est in Eller­ston back to the Packer fam­ily, Crown re­vealed its 50 per cent stake in the prop­erty was val­ued at $62.5m.

This price im­plied Mr Packer’s 25 per cent stake was worth about $30m, mean­ing Ms Packer agreed to pay about $90m to take full own­er­ship of the prop­erty.

“Eller­ston is a painful sub­ject for me,” Mr Packer says. “Gre­tel has ex­clu­sive rights to it now and in the fu­ture will own it 100 per cent. It is where my father is buried. Will (Vi­cars) and Gre­tel won it from me.”

But he says al­low­ing Eller­ston to be in the deal with his sis­ter was the price he had to pay for re­duc­ing his debt and al­low­ing him to keep his half-share of Crown.

“My father once said to me, ‘Son, the prob­lem with the English is they sell their busi­nesses to keep their prop­er­ties. Sell your prop­er­ties to keep the busi­ness,’ ” Mr Packer says.

Af­ter a nasty fall­ing-out with Mr Vi­cars dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions, Mr Packer says he has also agreed to make peace with a man he now de­scribes as a “for­mi­da­ble ne­go­tia­tor”.

Mr Vi­cars agrees it was a long, drawn-out, emo­tional process ne­go­ti­at­ing the divi­sion of a whole range of as­sets that were dear to the hearts of both sib­lings.

“A lot of things were said that both sides wish were never said, but that’s what can hap­pen in the heat of the mo­ment,” he says in the bi­og­ra­phy. “That mo­ment went on for quite a while.

“At the end of the day, ev­ery­one is now talk­ing again; the emo­tion has washed through.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.