Family
and close friends have gathered at the Bellevue Hill home of Australia’s richest man Kerry Packer
after the media mogul died overnight, aged 68.

“Mrs
Kerry Packer and her children James and Gretel sadly report the passing last
evening of her husband and their father Kerry,” Tony Ritchie, Nine head of news,
said in a statement.

“He
died peacefully at home with his family at his bedside.”

The
cause of the billionaire’s death is not yet known and his condition quickly
deteriorated after he became ill on Christmas Day, a source close to the family
said.

The
source said Packer’s son and heir to the family’s media empire, James Packer,
cut short an overseas trip and returned to Sydney yesterday, several hours
before his father’s death.

Veteran
TV personality Ray Martin paid tribute to his employer and
friend. “It’s
a sad day. He was a remarkable character,” Martin told the John Laws Morning
Show.

Martin
said Packer had a close connection with sport, the Australian community and what
the public wanted.

The
death is understood to have been unexpected, with Packer joining his family at
their Palm Beach residence for the traditional Christmas and New Year holiday
period.

Packer’s
wife, Ros Packer, had personally overseen extensive renovations to the family’s
peninsula home in recent weeks and it’s understood that it is from here, that
the family returned to their Bellevue Hill mansion when Mr Packer began to show
signs of deteriorating health.

Packer
is
Australia’s richest man through his media company PBL Publishing and
Broadcasting Limited. PBL
owns the Channel Nine television network in Australia, the majority of the
magazines and newspapers published in Australia, gambling interests including
the Burswood and Crown Casino, and various other Internet, media and financial
interests.

The
Packer family have been involved in publishing and media for several generations
in Australia. It
started with Kerry Packer’s grandfather Robert Packer who managed and owned a
part of a newspaper in the 1920s. Kerry’s father Frank Packer then went on to produce one of
Australia’s most successful magazines the “Australian Women’s
Weekly”.

The
success of the weekly magazine funded further acquisitions and established the
foundation of what has grown into the Publishing and Broadcasting media empire
that exists today.

After his father’s death in 1974 Kerry Packer took
control of the business. Packer continually expanded and grew the company over
the years.

Peter Fray

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