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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 08:04 GMT
Obituary: Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer
Kerry Packer: Ruthless business tycoon

Australian businessman Kerry Packer achieved international notoriety in 1977 when he signed many of the world's best cricketers, including then England captain Tony Greig, for his World Series.

He acted after his Channel 9 television network was refused exclusive broadcasting rights for a Test series against the West Indies.

With his dynamic approach, Packer turned cricket tradition on its head with big money, floodlights and brightly-coloured kit.

Inherited an empire

Kerry Packer was born in 1937. Even though his father, Sir Frank Packer, was an immensly wealthy man, the young Kerry had a lonely and hard childhood.

I'll toss you for it
Packer to a Texan oilman who bragged he was worth $100m

He was regularly beaten and spent nine months in an iron lung following an attack of polio.

On leaving school at the age of 19, Kerry Packer joined his father's publishing and broadcasting empire, which he inherited on his father's death in 1974.

Transformed cricket

He went on to become Australia's richest man, worth several billion dollars, his interests encompassing property and petrochemicals as well as the media.

A floodlit World Series Cricket match
Packer's World Series Cricket transformed the game
But he hit the headlines as his controversial World Series idea split the game between himself and the establishment - the International Cricket Conference.

Packer was cast in the role of divisive rabble-rouser, but many of the administrators who criticised him then now argue that he did cricket a huge service.

Coloured clothing, floodlights, white balls and uncommonly high salaries were all perjoratively referred to as Packer's Cricketing Circus.

Twenty-five years on, they are the driving force of the game.

Passion for polo

As head of the Australian Consolidated Press and other companies, he owned a chain of television and radio stations, but he sold them to Alan Bond in 1987.

A few months later came the stock market crash, which Packer survived relatively unscathed. In June 1990, he bought back the television stations for a fraction of the original price.

Channel 9 logo
Channel 9 was just one of Packer's many business interests
In recent years, polo had been one of Packer's greatest interests. He reputedly invested 50m ($86m) in the sport, bought many polo ponies and built a pitch on his estate in New South Wales.

He built another three on his 480-acre English estate, Fyning Hill in West Sussex, though he met with considerable local opposition.

Kerry Packer had a reputation for getting what he wanted, and was said to believe that every man had his price.

Health obsession

He was a great gambler, and was reported to have won 7m in one year at the tables in London.

In October 1990, he had what was described as a massive heart attack while playing polo in Australia. Technically dead for seven minutes, he was revived by paramedics.

A game of polo
Polo became one of Packer's main hobbies
Since that time, Kerry Packer became obsessed with his health, which continued to deteriorate.

He was a big man, weighing 20 stone (136kg).

He had undergone a number of operations in recent years.

He had also had a kidney transplant, the organ donated by his helicopter pilot.

Characteristically, he defied the odds, discharging himself from hospital a week later and immediately returning to the polo field.

He would later tell friends, "Believe me, there is nothing on the other side. I've been there."




SEE ALSO:
Media magnate Kerry Packer dies
26 Dec 05 |  Business


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