Australian gambling mogul James Packer has paid tribute to his “terrifying” late father Kerry and Hollywood star Tom Cruise in a rare and tearful interview on his private life.
Packer, who owns casinos in Australia and Macau and is developing a complex in Manila, opened up on his media tycoon father Kerry Sunday night in a television interview offering unprecedented insights into their relationship.
The late Packer senior, one of Australia’s richest and most influential men, who died from kidney failure in 2005, was known for his temper and his son said he was “best in class that I’ve come across” on that count.
“At times, absolutely, if he wanted to he could pretty easily terrify me,” Packer said in the Seven Network interview.
“I always got a bit jumpy when dad called because I didn’t know if it was going to be a good call or a bad call,” he added.
“My dad was a larger-than-life character and I’m not going to say every minute or every hour we spent together was a highlight.”
There were moments when Packer said his father was “very unhappy”, describing him as a “mercurial person” who had “big mood swings” and battled his own demons.
He said the media billionaire “gave me the belt only a couple of times”, and he had deserved it, being “caught red-handed doing something he specifically told me not to do”.
“I wouldn’t want to give you the impression that dad was excessive in those things.”
Packer wept as he recalled the final conversation with his father who, unknown to him, was dying. The elder Packer urged his son to follow his own path in life.
Packer also opened up on his links to the Church of Scientology and high-profile acolyte Cruise, who he said “reached out to me” when he was at his lowest after his marriage failed and a major business deal went bust.
“Tom Cruise reached out to me and it was a surreal thing — I had met him only once or twice and he was in Australia and we got together,” he said.
“I think that he could tell that I was in pain and he invited me to his house to go skiing with him.
“He never asked me for anything in his entire life, and he believed in me when other people didn’t. I think he’s a very special person,” he added.
Packer is lobbying to build a US$1 billion casino in Sydney, the city’s second, hoping to lure Asian high-rollers, particularly the growing ranks of wealthy Chinese.