Kerry Packer, Ron Walker, Robert De Crespigny, John Singleton, Mark Carnegie and John Wylie make an unusual group lining up a potential bid for Perth-based mineral sands company Iluka.

Their syndicate spent $110 million buying a 7.25% stake at $6.50 a share and is already showing a paper profit of $24 million after yesterday’s 62c surge to a record $7.93.

But before getting too excited, it’s worth remembering that Kerry Packer has a woeful record when it comes to investing in resource companies. Paul Barry’s biography details the various fiascos including a crazy scheme in November 1986 where Packer was persuaded by the ever-colourful Warren Anderson to plough $200 million into a bunch of jungle properties in the Pacific rim that never produced any gold.

1,300 minority shareholders in the Packer-controlled Muswellbrook Energy and Minerals saw their shares plunge from $1.40 to just 5c when Australia’s richest man took it private to end the embarrassment of spending $88 million exploring for fool’s gold in the jungles of PNG, Indonesia and The Philippines.

Other Packer resources plays such as Bendigo Mining and various dreams to find commercially viable diamonds have also come to nothing.

Iluka is now valued at about $2.3 billion (including $400 million in debt) and would be too big a bite for De Crespigny’s gaggle of mates without Packer being on board. The stock was available for purchase at just $4.50 a share six months ago.

Given Packer’s reluctance to make big offers at the top of the market for listed companies, don’t hold your breath for a bid to emerge, which means De Cresigny’s fourth attempt to climb atop a major Australian mining house will probably be as successful as his campaigns to save MIM and WMC Resources.

If the Rich Lister really wanted to keep running a major Australian mineral house, why did he create an auction for Normandy Mining a few years back?