The Crikey army’s fascination with the Packer family continues as emails keep pouring in after last Friday’s memorial service.

Subscriber Pam was totally flabbergasted
when it was announced that the VIPs would stand and leave the memorial
service first. This included Tom Cruise, but not Nick Ross, the chopper
pilot whose kidney gave Kerry Packer another five years of
life. What does that say about the superficiality of the whole
Packer media blitz about him being close to the common man?

As for the presence of Anglican Archbishop Jensen, a subscriber
points out this probably reflected the $1
million that Kerry Packer dropped in to fix the financial deficit at
Moore Theological College, the bible school for Anglicans in Sydney,
about four years ago.

Given that John Howard was appointing Archbishop Hollingworth Governor
General around this time, maybe Big Kerry thought this was a good way
to keep sweet with the PM? Then again, we keep being told how Kerry
insisted on confidentiality with these donations. Confidentiality
appears to lend itself to exaggeration, if the claim by Alan Jones in The Bulletin that Packer gave “hundreds of
millions” to Sydney hospitals is any guide.

Another subscriber points to what US industrialist Andrew Carnegie said: “A man who dies with his fortune intact dies
diminished.”

Rather than waste it on gambling, mistresses and other
excesses, Carnegie gave away something more than 90% of his fortune for
good works
prior to his death. Kerry turned $100 million into $7 billion and
managed to spend an estimated $50-$100 million a year living an
extravagant lifestyle along the way.

On the question of John Laws missing the service, a subscriber points out that he finishes his program on a
Friday at 11.30am, followed by half an hour of highlights from earlier
in the week. He would have had time to get from the lower North Shore
to the Opera House if he’d really wanted to attend the memorial
service. Maybe he was taking a stand for his mate Paul Keating?

Then there is the question of how much of our money was spent last
Friday. Brian correctly points out that there hasn’t even beena wild ball-park guesstimate of the total cost.

It would be very interesting to know where taxpayer largesse stopped
and Packer family contributions started. Security, food, TV production,
transport of mourners, transport of choristers, transport of Greg
Norman,Tom Cruise and friends. James Packer is a Qantas director, so
did the national airline help out at all? Was Alan Jones paid for his
performance? Was Geoff Harvey? Was anyone?

Finally, we did like this anecdote from former BBC boss Greg Dyke on Packer not being a great bloke:

The
recollections I have of Kerry Packer, the Australian media magnate who died over
Christmas, go back to the time when he decided to buy 20 per cent of the
fledgling breakfast station TVam. I was
editor-in-chief of TVam at the time and remember asking Packer why he had spent
a million pounds on TVam when most people thought it was going bust. His reply?
“I risk more than that at the races on a Saturday.”

One day
Packer asked me what was needed to turn TVam into a success, assuring me what I
said would be confidential. I explained that while I was a fan of TVam’s chief
executive, Tim Aitken, I thought we needed a full-time leader, not one who spent
most of his time running a bank.

Packer went
straight to see Tim and said: “Dyke says I should fire you.” It was then I
decided Packer wasn’t my sort of bloke. A few weeks later Tim became chairman,
Packer’s protege, Bruce Gyngell, became chief executive and I decided my future
lay elsewhere.

So much for the sanctity of keeping confidences.

Keep the Packer anecdotes coming to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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