Kerry Packer - Australia's Richest Media Baron

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Case Details:

Case Code : LDEN037
Case Length : 15 Pages
Period : 1974-2005
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Publishing and Broadcasting Limited
Industry : Media
Countries : Australia

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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The Initial Years

Kerry Packer was born on December 17, 1937, in Sydney, Australia. He was the younger son of Douglas Frank Hewson Packer (Frank), Chairman of the Australian Consolidated Press (ACP), and Gretel Packer. Packer was sent to a boarding school at the age of five. He contracted polio at the age of six. During the two years he was affected with polio, Packer spent his time with a private nurse in Canberra. When he went back to boarding school at the age of nine, he was way behind his classmates in studies. Further, he suffered from dyslexia, and was constantly switched between schools. To add to Packer's woes, his father, whom he described as a hard taskmaster, frequently admonished him.

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However, even as a boy, Packer's strength was his indomitable willpower - a willpower so strong that he overcame polio and excelled in sports such as cricket, golf, boxing, tennis, rugby, and swimming. His greatest regret was that he was not able to represent his country in any of these sports. Elaborating on the importance of sport in his life, Packer once said, "My life was sport. I was academically stupid.

My method of surviving through school and those sorts of things was sport."8 One of Packer's schools was the Geelong Grammar School, a prestigious private school in Australia. Packer was not treated well in the school as he was academically poor and was rough and hefty. But his rough ways and hefty physique made him school's heavyweight boxing champion in 1956. When Packer left Geelong at the age of 19, having taken six years to complete a four-year course, Frank made him join the ACP to learn the nuances of the newspaper business. However, Frank made no secret of his poor opinion of Packer and often called him 'Boofhead' (which means fool in Australia).

While Packer was asked to do menial jobs like cleaning the printing machines, his elder brother Clyde Packer (Clyde), who had joined two years earlier, was being groomed to succeed Frank. Packer turned to gambling, heavy drinking, and smoking which he later stopped. In 1956, when television was introduced in Australia, Frank established TCN-9. He obtained the Sydney broadcasting license and became Australia's first broadcaster. In 1960, Frank bought 62% stake in Melbourne-based television station, GTV-9 and established Nine Network. The 1960s witnessed intense competition among several family-owned newspapers - The Daily Mirror (owned by Murdochs), The Sydney Morning (owned by Fairfaxes) and The Daily Telegraph (owned by Packers). By the early 1970s, The Daily Telegraph was affected by television and started losing money. Packer favored selling the newspaper but Frank resisted. Packer told his father that the future belonged to television and invested money in the television channel.

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8]  "Kerry Packer: Empire Builder,", December 27, 2005.


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