Mistake that ruined Crown Resorts $10 billion merger deal
A Las Vegas casino empire kicked a $10 billion merger with Crown Resorts to the kerb overnight after the James Packer-backed gambling firm spoiled the deal by pre-emptively spilling the beans.
But the error could have crushing consequences for the billionaire, making it harder for him to achieve his long-term ambition of withdrawing from his role as a business magnate.
The wasted deal is just the latest blow to the third-generation tycoon, who has suffered a tumultuous few years in both his private and professional life.
HOW THE CROWN DEAL COLLAPSED
A matter of hours after Crown confirmed to the Australian Securities Exchange a lucrative deal was in motion, Wynn Resorts poured cold water on the merger saying the deal had been spoiled.
"Following the premature disclosure of preliminary discussions, Wynn Resorts has terminated all discussions with Crown Resorts concerning any transaction," the company said early Wednesday Australia time.
The "premature" spilling of the deal sent Crown's share price surging 20 per cent higher.
However, an agreed bid had not been finalised on the deal that would have resulted in Mr Packer - who has a 46.1 per cent stake in Crown - walking away with about $2 billion and a 10 per cent stake in Wynn Resorts.
By 10.35am AEST today, Crown's shares had slipped back 8.7 per cent to $12.83.
The Wall Street Journal spoke to a source who said Wynn executives were shocked by the Crown announcement.
"I was surprised and the US folks were surprised," the person said.
The Australian's Victorian business editor Damon Kitney, who penned a biography about the billionaire titled The Price of Fortune, wrote that the Wynn Resorts takeover would have been an end of an era for Australian business.
It would have meant the Packer family no longer ran a large public company after a few years the son of Kerry Packer would rather forget.
This includes involvement in corruption, a high-profile breakup with a global star and a street brawl in broad daylight.
The biography closes with solemn comments of resignation from Mr Packer, which Kitney says is evidence the billionaire is keen to relinquish his role as a business tycoon.
"Some people handle pressure well and some don't. I don't. I don't know if that is because I am wired that way," Mr Packer told the author.
"Or if it is because bad things have actually happened to me. I am tired of being on this rollercoaster. I don't want to do it any more. I'm ready to put my hands up for a few years. I really am."
This is not the only controversy that has put Packer in the headlines in recent years.
ALLEGED GIFTS TO ISRAELI PM
Last month it was revealed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be indicted in his home country on corruption charges, which included allegations he received tens of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts from Mr Packer.
According to the indictment, Mr Packer provided gifts such as champagne and cigars to Mr Netanyahu and his wife Sara so regularly it was akin to a "delivery line".
It was alleged that the Israeli PM and his family were allowed to help themselves to the Aussie billionaire's home when he wasn't there.
In late 2017, the Australian Federal Police interviewed Mr Packer about his involvement in the corruption probe.
"Mr Packer participated in the interview on a voluntary basis as a witness for an investigation being conducted by Israeli authorities," an AFP spokesperson told The Australian at the time.
"Mr Packer is not suspected of criminal conduct in either Israel or Australia with respect to this investigation."
PACKER EMBROILED IN SEX SCANDAL
James Packer found himself embroiled in a Hollywood sex scandal recently after texts he sent to former girlfriend, young British actor Charlotte Kirk, were leaked.
The drama kicked off in September 2013, when Packer and his business partner Brett Ratner were in the middle of finalising a $450 million film deal between their company RatPac Entertainment and Warner Bros.
Towards the end of September in that same year, Packer texted Kirk who was 21 at the time.
"I have the opportunity of a lifetime for u," Packer wrote, in a message sent just after midnight on September 21, 2013 - one of the hundreds obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
"Come to (the Hotel) Bel air now. U will never be able to pay me."
Packer promised Kirk a meeting with "the most important man you can meet". It was Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara.
Over the next few years, according to the hundreds of text messages obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Kirk and the Warner Bros chairman were involved in a sexual relationship in exchange for furthering the British actor' career.
The texts show an argument ensued between the actor and the men, and when Kirk demanded Mr Packer follow through with his end of the bargain, the Aussie businessman bit back.
"Don't push me. U'll regret it," Packer wrote.
"James if you're trying to make me worry about my safety you'll be forcing me to give this to my attorneys," she responded.
"Can't wait tough girl," Packer replied. "Get back in your box or let's fight. Lying and blackmail are a bad start … tough lying girl."
CROWN STAFF ARRESTED FOR GAMBLING OFFENCES
In late-2016, 19 Crown staff members were arrested and detained as the business was trying to attract high-spending Chinese to its casinos outside China, where gambling is illegal except in the territory of Macau.
A court jailed 16 of them, including three Australians for nine to 10 months, backdated to their October detention and Crown was ordered to pay a fine of $1.67 million.
There were fears they could be accused of money laundering, which carries up to a 10 year sentence - but it emerged they would face the less serious charge of promoting gambling on China's mainland, where betting and the promotion of it are illegal.
Only a month-or-so before the arrest of the Crown staff in China, Mr Packer's highly publicised relationship with superstar singer Mariah Carey came to an end.
The Aussie tycoon reportedly forked out millions of dollars to his ex-fiance after the couple finally reached a financial settlement in late-2017.
The billionaire paid the music icon somewhere between $6-$13 million (US $5-10 million), the deal being settled in the last few months, TheBlast.com reported.
The figure includes the value of the engagement ring Mr Packer gave Carey, which she gets to keep.
It was previously reported the singer wanted upwards of $50 million from her Australian ex, claiming she went through a costly move to Los Angeles to be with him.
Mr Packer said he was "at a low" point in his life during the 18-month relationship and confessed the romance was a "mistake" for both of them.
"She was kind, exciting and fun. Mariah is a woman of substance. But it was a mistake for her and a mistake for me," he told The Australian.
Mr Packer said his business's debt was more than $5 billion at the time he met Carey.
"Two years ago I was terrified. I had $2.3 billion of debt at CPH (Consolidated Press Holdings, his private company), over $3 billion of debt at Crown, I'd just appointed Rob (Rankin as chairman of Crown), Macau was falling over and (sister) Gretel was on my doorstep.
"Then, a year later, I've got China falling apart, the Australian casino businesses missing budgets by big amounts, I've got Mariah breaking up with me and I'm thinking, 'F**k!'."
THE STREET BRAWL
A few years earlier, things weren't much better for Mr Packer.
The most unceremonious, or at least the most public low of the tycoon's rollercoaster ride, was without-a-doubt his fist fight in broad daylight on a Bondi Beach footpath in 2014 with the then Nine chief executive David Cyngell.
The former best mates were seen brawling on the street outside Mr Packer's multimillion-dollar Bondi Beach pad in Sydney. The stills show the men aggressively wrestling, before falling to the ground in a head lock.
A witness told The Australian "it was like two mad dogs at each other's throats".
Mr Cyngell was waiting outside the property for Mr Packer to arrive home from the airport and engaged in a heated phone conversation just moments before Mr Packer's car arrived at the scene, with him repeatedly saying he was "going to punch him".
The pair needed to be separated by what appeared to be Mr Packer's bodyguards and they then retreated to their homes, with a doctor attending the home of Mr Packer.
At the time, the relationship between the childhood friends was said to have broken down after Mr Packer and his second wife Erica announced their separation six months earlier.