Does
Kerry Packer really have a Foxtel connection in most toilets at his
various Australian residences? This is what a mole at Foxtel is telling
us. The grand total of set-top boxes across the Packer properties
apparently comes to 58 – which include the Packers’ Bellevue Hill
compound in Sydney, their Palm Beach weekender, the polo fields at
Ellerston, the suite at Crown, the ski lodge at Perisher and various
other venues which house our $7 billion man. We’re told there are even
two on his yacht, the converted ice-breaker known as Arctic P.

The
Foxtel system descibes Big Kerry as a “courtesy customer”, and this
doesn’t come cheap when you consider that Foxtel digital boxes costs
the company $300 each. However, it is certainly not counted as 58
different subscriptions.

Our man on the inside says that “if an
upgrade is needed, then all other customers’ installation appointments
are fair game because Kerry comes first”.

The big question is
exactly what the big man is so keen to watch on Foxtel. Is it the
Cartoon Network or is he constantly riding the markets with CNBC or
following various sports events around the world?

The set-top
boxes were all meant to come from the one factory in South Africa, so
that everyone has the same model. But due to the vagaries of
technology, there are now a couple of different suppliers and models,
which is annoying for Foxtel in the same way Ansett’s mixed-bag of
planes was annoying for Ansett.

Crikey has long congratulated
the Packers for not taking a salary out of PBL, unlike the Murdochs and
the Lowys who help themselves to more than $20 million a year out of
News Corp and Westfield respectively. But we’ve also wondered about the
fringe benefits they extract from the business.

Who pays for the
corporate jet? Does PBL reimburse the family for some of the running
costs of the yacht? What’s the rack rate at Crown when James and the
boys are in Melbourne having a good time?

Now it seems we can
add the 58 Foxtel connections to this list. No doubt Telstra and the
taxpayer is happy to provide this rather extensive service at a
competitive rate to their number-one VIP customer.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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