packer crown

The Australian media’s obsession with the Packers had a new story to lead with yesterday — US casino giant Wynn Resorts was in takeover talks with Crown Resorts. But newspapers with strict early deadlines suffered with front pages that were sorely out of date by this morning after a late-night announcement from Wynn. The deals were off.

Nine’s Australian Financial ReviewThe Sydney Morning Herald and The Age all splashed the story on their front pages, as did the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun.  The Australian — with its later print deadlines — had the scoop on the collapse of the $10 billion deal for its second edition (the first edition reported that the deal was in play).

With the scoop, the Oz took its usual measured approach, publishing nine stories across the front page, the front of its Inquirer section and a double-page spread inside the paper.

Even though the Oz’s tabloid stablemates The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun missed the collapse of the deal, they also went big on the story: the Tele had two stories and a timeline over a double page news spread, a front-page pointer and another double page spread in the business section.

The Australian Financial Review covered the deal over four articles, which still hadn’t been updated early this morning to report that the deal was now off.

In last night’s news bulletins, the story led Sydney’s Seven and Nine evening bulletins, and was covered in the middle of the ABC’s evening bulletin. 

This story is just the latest update in a long media obsession with the Packers. In recent years, James Packer’s business deals and personal life have been regular features in the news. His ill-fated relationship with pop diva Mariah Carey produced rolling content for gossip columns, and his street fight with former best friend and Nine boss David Gyngell won the photographer who captured it a Walkley award.

The two Nine (formerly Fairfax) papers have been published at News Corp’s printers in Sydney and Brisbane since late 2018 under a deal announced in August by both companies to apply in NSW and Queensland, but not Victoria. Fairfax’s then-CEO Greg Hywood made a big deal about how the arrangement would generate savings of $15 million a year: “Better utilisation of existing print assets makes sense and will deliver economic benefits to Fairfax Media.”

That benefit was not seen in today’s papers — they seem to have the same earlier deadlines issues they had when the papers were printed at the company’s North Richmond Plant in Sydney and near Brisbane. Wynn issued two releases on Tuesday evening, well after deadlines for the papers other than the Oz. The first was a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission which confirmed the talks. Soon after the second release was a brief statement just before trading started on Wall Street about 11.30pm Sydney time: “Following the premature disclosure of preliminary discussions, Wynn has terminated all discussions with Crown Resorts Limited concerning any transaction”.

The Oz, with its later deadline, was able to grab the story and recast its front page at the last minute. Nine’s papers (and News Corp’s tabloids) were being printed and distributed with yesterday’s news on the front page.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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