James Packer and Kylie Lim
James Packer and Kylie Lim

Deadly virus costs Packer $1.76 billion

AFTER a series of cruel and unfortunate events, it seemed James Packer had finally got his wish to step back from the pressures of running a multi-billion dollar casino empire.

The Australian business icon struck a deal last year to sell half his stake in Crown Resorts for $1.76 billion to a Macau-based entertainment company but the deal has become the latest victim of the deadly coronavirus spilling through China and across the world.

The Laurence Ho-owned Melco Resorts announced on Thursday it was pulling out of its plan to nearly double its stake in the Australian casino business from 10 to 19.99 per cent.

"Due to the impact of the coronavirus epidemic, including the severe drop in tourism in Asia to Integrated Resort (IR) facilities in the region, and the recent decision by the Macau SAR government to close all casinos in Macau, Melco has taken the decision to reassess all non-core investments to be made in 2020," the company said in a statement.

The company insists Crown is a "world-class asset" but was resigned to deploying its capital "on its core" business.

 

Lawrence Ho and James Packer struck the deal in May. Picture: From Damon Kitney's biography on Packer
Lawrence Ho and James Packer struck the deal in May. Picture: From Damon Kitney's biography on Packer

 

The deal with Melco Resorts was, in itself, viewed as a resignation from Mr Packer after a much larger merger was botched by his casino empire just a month earlier.

Crown was in the home stretch of finalising a $10 billion deal with Las Vegas giant Wynn Resorts but the Australian company spoiled the prospect by pre-emptively releasing details of the merger.

A matter of hours after Crown confirmed to the Australian Securities Exchange a lucrative deal was in motion, Wynn Resorts abruptly ended the agreement.

"Following the premature disclosure of preliminary discussions, Wynn Resorts has terminated all discussions with Crown Resorts concerning any transaction," the company said at the time.

 

Packer had been reportedly keen to step back from the spotlight. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
Packer had been reportedly keen to step back from the spotlight. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

 

At the time the Wynn Resorts deal spiralled out of control, The Australian's Victorian business editor Damon Kitney, who penned a biography about the billionaire titled The Price of Fortune, wrote that an end of Mr Packer's involvement with Crown would be an end of an era for Australian business.

It would mean the Packer family no longer ran a large public company after a few years the son of Kerry Packer would rather forget.

This includes being named as a star witness in a corruption case, a high-profile break-up with a global star and a street brawl in broad daylight.

And although the deal with Mr Ho appeared to be far weaker than the merger offer from the Las Vegas firm, it served as a saving grace for an exhausted Aussie business icon who's ready to leave the game.

The biography closed 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."

 

The deal is the latest victim of the coronavirus. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
The deal is the latest victim of the coronavirus. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Continue the conversation on Twitter @James_P_Hall or james.hall1@news.com.au



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