Was Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu behind James Packer’s decision to seek help when he had a breakdown in Aspen?
WA mogul Kerry Stokes, alluded to this today, saying the “highest possible man in Israel,” had been in touch, wanting to help the troubled billionaire in his dire time of need.
Back in February 2016, Mr Packer, due to marry diva Mariah Carey in weeks, was at such a low point that Mr Stokes even warned James that he “might die.” James needed to let him help him put his financial affairs in order, the Seven West Media chief revealed.
“James was in a bad place,” Mr Stokes told a packed breakfast audience at Crown, there for the launch of Packer biography The Price Of Fortune, by Damon Kitney.
Mr Stokes, staying at his Colorado home with wife Christine two hours away, was quick to arrive at James’s West Buttermilk mansion and help. This included managing the billionaire’s business affairs, and keeping his then-fiancee Mariah Carey and entourage at arm’s length.
Earlier, when James had shown he wasn’t coping, there was no shortage of people wanting to help, but who to trust? Many friends and associates were circling “like animals around a bird with a broken wing” providing conflicting advice, Mr Stokes recalled, adding, “We needed to find a reference point for James so he could deal with the crisis.”
That’s when the “highest possible man in Israel” came into the picture, providing a trusted voice of reason. “If James was going to take note of anyone he needed some reference point.”
The important caller from Israel made it clear he believed James should allow Kerry Stokes, an old friend of James, to come and help him.
This meant not only providing supportive company, but helping him handle his business and private financial affairs.
“James said, ‘Why do you need to do this?’ and I said, ‘You might die, you are in a serious position,’ Mr Stokes, who later organised for James to fly to Israel for treatment, recounted.
Soon Mr Stokes found himself not only handling James’s finances, he was also fending off calls from Ms Carey’s entourage with lavish requests, including a $250,000 wedding dress which Mr Stokes knocked back.
Asked by a reporter at the breakfast if the Israeli friend was Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Stokes replied, “I can’t say.”
It’s well known, though, that James Packer and the Israel PM have enjoyed a close friendship, so much so that Mr Packer became the target of an Israeli investigation over lavish gifts he’d given Mr Netanyahu.
In November 2017, Mr Packer was interviewed by the Australian Federal Police about the gifts, while Israeli investigators listened in.
Launched across Australia this week, The Price Of Fortune, in which Damon Kitney had unprecedented access to James and more than 60 friends and associates, provides a fascinating insight into the mogul’s extraordinary life.
In March this year, he stood down from the Crown board and other businesses, citing mental health issues.
At today’s breakfast, Mr Stokes denied any suggestion he was a father figure to James. “I’m a friend… He had a father – all the others are friends and mentors,” he said.
Asked how the corporate world will view the book’s insights into James’s sometimes troubled world, Mr Stokes replied he was confident he would eventually re-establish himself. “He will be back.”
The Price of Fortune: The Untold Story of Being James Packer, by Damon Kitney (Harper Collins) is on sale now.
Crown Breakfast Photographs: Peter Rigby