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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 12:59 GMT
Media magnate Kerry Packer dies
Kerry Packer
Packer's business empire included media and the gaming industry
Flamboyant Australian media magnate Kerry Packer, the country's richest man, has died at the age of 68.

Mr Packer transformed cricket when he took on the game's establishment by founding the World Series in 1977 and luring top players with huge salaries.

Forbes magazine valued him at US$5bn (2.9bn) this year. His interests also included mining and property.

Mr Packer was known as one of the world's biggest gamblers, reputedly winning and losing millions in casinos.

He died in his sleep at home among his family in Sydney, a statement said.

The exact cause of his death is not yet clear, but he had suffered health problems including cancer, and had undergone a kidney transplant.

Prime Minister John Howard said the media magnate was a great Australian.

"He was a larger-than-life character."

'Cricket war'

Business rival Rupert Murdoch said Mr Packer was "a lifelong friend and a tough competitor" who knew what people wanted.

He said Mr Packer was "the most successful businessman of our generation", and often "surrounded in controversy but at the same time, capable of great generosity".

Mr Packer is considered the person who transformed sport on television, especially cricket, the BBC's Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Packer forced cricket to reinvent itself and therefore ensured its survival
Srinivas Anisetti, Slough, UK

He launched his World Series after being refused exclusive broadcasting rights for a Test series against the West Indies.

The series ran for two years and featured great players such as Dennis Lillee, Viv Richards, Michael Holding and Imran Khan. Tony Greig gave up the England captaincy to join.

The cricket authorities were quick to condemn and issue bans, but Mr Packer was able to lure players with big-money contracts that offered wages far exceeding those paid by national boards.

The series featured innovations such as night-time games, white cricket balls and colourful playing strips.

Former England captain Tony Greig told the BBC Mr Packer was responsible for the current strength of cricket in Australia, along with legendary Australian batsman Donald Bradman.

"The truth of the matter is we had a war in cricket," he said.

"Having gone to war with them he turned out to be their greatest ally."

Gambler

Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) is the firm behind both the Nine Network TV station and magazines like Australian Women's Weekly.

Mr Packer's business empire also included ski resorts and diamond exploration.

He was also an enthusiastic gambler.

As well as Nine Network and the Australian Consolidated Press, PBL owns Melbourne's Crown Casino and has been developing casinos in the Chinese territory of Macau.

Several years ago Mr Packer denied reports that he lost $20m (16.9m euros) in a Las Vegas casino.

But he was also reputed to have won 7m ($12m) on the tables in London one year.

He is survived by his wife and children, James and Gretel.

His son is expected to take control of the business empire.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Obituary: Kerry Packer



SEE ALSO:
Cricket leads tributes to Packer
27 Dec 05 |  Cricket
Tough times for Packer's TV arm
25 Aug 05 |  Business
Packer moves into Macau gambling
16 Nov 04 |  Business
'Lucky' tycoon hits paydirt
24 Jan 02 |  Business


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