James Packer is a man who doesn’t take kindly to criticism and he is still clearly upset with News Ltd executive chairman John Hartigan for recent coverage in the Murdoch press.
So upset that Packer has turned to The AFR – the one paper in the Fairfax stable that he really would like to own – for a contrary view. At least, that’s what The Weekend Australian Magazine would have you believe in its tough cover story on James Packer on Saturday, which included the following:
He has talked and talked about himself in a series of interviews to a small coterie of journalists he has cultivated at The AFR. Those interviews, which culminated last month in an effusive ten-page feature in the newspaper’s glossy magazine, have enabled Packer to remodel his public image and shape the media coverage of his first year in charge of PBL.
“Effusive” is probably a tad unfair on Pamela Williams and Damon Kitney and this overstates the power of The AFR. However, Packer’s right-hand man John Alexander does indeed remain very close to AFR editor Glenn Burge and the two conspired to give James a very soft run in The SMH a decade ago, as this archival piece from Margo Kingston’s Webdiary explains.
Despite Sarah Murdoch starting her gig on Nine’s Today show this morning, News Ltd is more than making up for any excessive Fairfax gushing at the moment. The latest News Ltd attacks are probably explained by this quote from James Packer in The AFR feature last month:
I think that the reality is that companies like Seek and Carsales are making life harder for newspaper companies, and John Hartigan probably had the choice to say to Rupert that it is James’s fault or he could have said to Rupert, “I messed up”. I think he has probably looked to blame me as opposed to looking in the mirror.
James is clearly steaming about headlines such as “Home James” in The Daily Telegraph when he was playing polo in England and he’ll be even angrier after The Sunday Telegraph beat him up again yesterday with a story claiming he’d shelled out $38 million for a “bachelor pad” in London. The huge front page blurb even called him Jamie.
And Packer was probably steaming over this depiction in The Weekend Australian Magazine of his parents’ relationship and management of the fallout from it following his father’s death:
Should we feel sorry for James Packer? Probably not. It is far better having Australia’s two most powerful media empires at war than operating a cosy pact to leave each other families alone, as we saw in 1998 when the Murdoch press refused even to report that James Packer had called off his engagement to Kate Fischer.