Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer - reluctantly


Dave Riley

Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer ran out of petrol and reluctantly died of kidney failure on Boxing Day. He was 68.

When I look back at a life such as his I am reminded that we are all victims of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In Kerry's case this amounted to $100 million — being the amount bequeathed to him by his late father Clyde. Such a fortune is, in anyone's estimation, pretty outrageous.

When dear old Aunt Maude passes on and leaves you Uncle Reg's ashes, the budgerigar, Tiddles the cat and a month's supply of kitty litter — you need to spare a thought for the heavy burden of responsibility the young Kerry had to bear.

No one asked him what he thought. It wasn't his choice to be born a Packer. Maybe — we don't know, but maybe — he yearned for a simpler and easier life?

Regrettably we will not know the answer, as Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer (now deceased) could only live the one life that was allotted him.

Someone had to break the sports boycott of apartheid South Africa. To imagine Channel 9 without a Packer at the helm seems almost unAustralian, does it not? And what's a polo pony to do without a rider?

So you gotta cut the man some slack. Sure he was a rich so and so and died with a net worth of around $6.5 billion (give or take a hundred mill here or there), but come on — all he could do was his best as he saw it within the bounds of his legacy. That's the most we can ask of any of our children.

He had a dicky heart and dodgy kidneys remember ... and he was addicted to gambling. And you know how deep a hole the pokies can make in a pension cheque! With Kerry it was the same, although the holes are deeper even if the cheques are larger. So it's all relative, I guess. He was one of us, who nonetheless had his own crosses to bear.

I think we often forget that. He may have been a Packer, rather than your Joe Average, but at heart (and a faulty heart it was too) Kerry Packer knew which cricket team to barrack for. He may have been a gambler, but he knew gambling's demons and had the good sense to own some of the casinos he wagered in.

There's a lesson there that we tend to ignore. He may have been a tycoon in every sense of the word, but he was our tycoon. Here was a man that could stand up to multinationals like Rupert Murdoch's and proclaim that we Australians prefer to give our money to the local guy.

He could say that and mean it! Every word of it!

Makes you so darn proud it does. Whether we're watching Channel 9, or reading Women's Weekly, or dropping the food money into the pokies, each of us, in our own small way, will be doing our bit to ensure that future generations of Packers won't have to work as hard for their next billion as their dear old dead dad had to.

From Green Left Weekly, January 25, 2006.
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