AFTER a tumultuous two years that included a messy business settlement with his sister, a whirlwind relationship with Mariah Carey and a very public emotional breakdown, billionaire James Packer is back from the brink.
And the Australian casino boss credits the new woman in his life with saving him from himself.
The new biography about the son of famed media mogul Kerry Packer, titled The Price of Fortune: The Untold Story of Being James Packer, is filled with revelations about the 50-year-old’s rough couple of years.
In it, Packer — who spoke at length with author Damon Kitney — opens up for the first time about his relationship with Canadian-born model turned socialite Kylie Lim.
“I’m lucky she’s in my life,” he said. “Kylie is a good person, a really good partner, and we are taking things slowly, one day at a time.”
He revealed the pair met almost two years ago in the wake of his messy break up with then-fiancee Carey, which led to a bitter separation settlement that cost him several million dollars.
As he battled emotional turmoil, which led to him being significantly medicated and suffering regular panic attacks, she became a close confidant.
Since then, Lim has been by his side as Packer tries to get well, travelling with him to restful holiday destinations like Bora Bora, Cabo, Capri and Ibiza.
Packer and Lim are preparing to make his new Los Angeles mansion, which he bought for 0 million last month to be closer to his children, their permanent base.
He revealed he has no intention of returning to Sydney until the completion and launch of the Crown Casino project at Barangaroo in 2020.
Friends are pleased with the positive impact Lim has had on Packer, particularly in the aftermath of his very public breakdown in March this year, which saw him hospitalised.
There is another figure playing a big part in his life that some are unconvinced about, though.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
Packer has the maharishi spiritual guru Thom Knoles on speed dial to provide him with guidance and alternative therapies to treat his depression.
The relationship has some of the billionaire’s friends concerned about whether it’s a help or hindrance.
Among them is the Australian businessman who introduced them, UBS boss Matthew Grounds.
“In hindsight, this (introduction) probably wasn’t one of my better calls. But I guess he seems to make James happy, so maybe it’s been worthwhile from his perspective,” Grounds said.
Knoles, who describes himself as pre-eminent master-teacher of Vedic Meditation, was born to American parents in post-war Germany in the 1950s.
“In addition to a public client base of tens of thousands of personally-taught students, he’s taught meditation to, and consulted to, the heads of many major Hollywood studios, several award-winning film industry leaders, two heads of state, and one Nobel Peace prize laureate,” his website states.
Packer considers the top-dollar guru a friend but admitted their relationship was first and foremost a “commercial one”.
“He believes in me. He tries to help me manage my emotions and find more happiness … and truly holy men aren’t bought by many.”
The book also reveals that in the final months of his relationship with Carey, Packer hit a dangerous low and called on Chanel Seven chairman Kerry Stokes for help.
Stokes met him in Aspen and took charge of his personal affairs, including pushing back on Carey and her diva demands.
“It was easy for me to say, ‘No, you are not spending 50,000 on a wedding dress. No you are not moving this here. You are not doing that’,” Stokes said.
As well as trouble brewing in the relationship, Packer was “panic-stricken” about a difficult settlement with his sister Gretel.
After a falling out, the siblings were carving up the empire that in the end saw her and her children receive a reported .5 billion.
But as negotiations wore on in mid-2016, Packer’s debt was growing and the Crown business was wobbly.
Stokes arranged for a broken Packer to fly on his private jet to Israel, to bunker down with a close friend and get some much-needed space. Then the media boss sent the plane for maintenance so Packer couldn’t leave too quickly.
“I certainly incurred the wrath at the time of his fiancee and her agent,” Stokes revealed
“They were threatening to go to the police for me kidnapping James. There were some strong words said. They wanted to charter a plane from Las Vegas to Israel, and I wouldn’t approve it. I was accused of separating the lovebirds.
“I said I was prepared to pay two economy fares to Israel if that was helpful.”
Carey and Packer split in early October 2016 and never spoke again. Their respective lawyers navigated a very bitter war over a financial settlement.
‘THE END OF ME’
Packer stood down from the board of Crown and flew to the US for hospitalisation and treatment for mental illness in March this year.
While he has stood back, his wealth remains tied up in the gambling and resort business — something that “devours” him on a daily basis, he told Kitney.
His concern is whether it was emerge as a “mature business or a sunset business”.
“I’ve said it a couple of times but I can’t stress how much it devours me on a daily basis. I have all my eggs in Crown now. If I don’t finish Sydney, that will be the end of me.”
While Kitney writes that the last comment was somewhat tongue in cheek, referring to the mammoth and controversial Barangaroo project, it’s clear that the stress has weighed heavily on Packer.
A number of prominent business figures, associates and friends spoke for the book, reflecting on the “shadow” of Packer’s father that still looms over him.
“For him losing money is failure. I think he does fear failure. I actually think that if James Packer had started with nothing, he would be one of the people who would have made a fortune by taking and embracing new technologies,” David Gonski said.
“He has the guts to invest in new things and the capacity to see them into the future. Starting with a capital base may actually be more a negative than a positive, because you always feel the need to preserve it.”
And it’s clear he is still competing with his late father when it comes to the success of the Packer empire.
He is able to rattle off the net worth and debt of the family’s fortune at the time of his father’s death, and at any current moment, to prove that he is making progress.