John Singleton rather unsubtlely told the world at Brian Ray’s funeral
last Friday that Australia’s toughest and richest businessman, Kerry
Packer, was a ” wuss” and a “p*of” for crying on hearing about his
mate’s unfortunate demise on the Victorian ski fields.

But before people start to think that Packer is a wimp, the lad is also
the only known Australian billionaire to get into a physical fight.
These were the opening four paragraphs from an award-winning page one
story by Mark Drummond in The AFR on 9 May, 2000:

Towards the end of 1988, Kerry Packer, was exchanging
punches with Warren Anderson in the media magnate’s Park Street office
in downtown Sydney. As the pair wrestled to the ground, they knocked
over a cast-iron stand holding up a glass bowl of sweets, which
exploded across the room.

“This bloody thing, I remember, it hit the deck and lollies went everywhere,” recalled Anderson.

“We had a bloody fist fight in there. We were on the ground … and oh
… it was all on.” That heated exchange, as Anderson tells it, marked
the undoing of a volatile business partnership between Packer and
Anderson, which had begun about two years earlier with ambitious plans
to create a multibillion-dollar trust housing office towers throughout
Australia’s capital cities.

In the three years before the partnership was finally dissolved in
1989, Packer and the Perth property developer had become good mates.
Together they had flown to Alaska in Packer’s private jet to hunt
grizzly bears, shot wild pigs at Anderson’s vast Tipperary station in
the Northern Territory and spent many hours gambling at casinos in

All of this is interesting given Anderson’s $50 million claim against
the West Australian government over the collapse of Rothwells in the
late 1980s which Packer helped fund. Asked yesterday about the prospect
of Packer giving evidence, Anderson told the WA Supreme Court: “He was
quite upset about the whole thing. I think you will waste your time
trying to get him out of his den up there – he just won’t appear, I
know what he is like. I also believe he is in ill health.”

Brian Ray and Packer also had a tempestuous relationship over the
years, but it sounds like Warren Anderson remains well and truly on the
outer. Clearly, it is not a wise move to punch a Packer, let alone cost
them tens of millions of dollars.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey