Moguls seen fighting, but 'remain friends'

Australian billionaire gambling tycoon James Packer gesturing as he speaks with a guest at the launch of the Harper Collins published book "Killing Fairfax in Sydney. Packer on May 5, 2014 has reportedly been captured in a vicious punch-up at Bondi Beach with his former best man, the head of Australia's Nine Network, sparking a bidding war for the photos.

SINGAPORE - Australian gaming mogul James Packer was seen brawling on a Bondi Beach street with life-long friend and former best man David Gyngell, media reported yesterday.

At least 50 photos of billionaire Packer, owner of Australia’s Crown Resorts Ltd, and Mr Gyngell, chief executive of the Nine Entertainment Group, viciously fighting outside Mr Packer’s home on Sunday were circulating for sale, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

Fairfax Media understands that News Corp Australia eventually paid A$200,000 (S$232,000) for the 50-plus images and video footage, which hit the media market yesterday morning.

Mr Packer and Mr Gyngell released a joint statement yesterday, which did not confirm the fight, but said they remained friends, reported Reuters.

A Facebook page purportedly belonging to a neighbour of Mr Packer’s, whose name is given as Chris Walker, provided an unconfirmed but detailed report of the fight.

Mr Walker did not respond to attempts by Reuters to verify his posting.

“Holy crap, big street fight outside my house... Not thugs, James Packer... And some other angry bloke going toe to toe — total brawl... Wow,” he wrote on the social networking site.

“Packer packed a punch but copped a couple of hits straight to the jaw...

“Then they all fell on the concrete fence and I think the other guy broke his face...

“They were looking for teeth after he left.”

Mr Packer, 46, is one of Australia’s richest men, with Forbes recently estimating his net worth at A$6.4 billion, and he has aggressively sought to expand his casino business into Asia and the US.

“We have been friends for 35 years and still are,” Mr Gyngell and Mr Packer said in the joint statement released by Nine Entertainment and Crown.

“In that time, we have had our fair share of ups and downs.

“We respect each other and neither of us will be commenting further.”

Nine Entertainment Co Holdings is the owner of Australia’s Nine TV network, one of the nation’s largest broadcasters.

STAKE

Mr Packer has a stake in rival Ten Network Holdings, although the fight was not believed to be connected to their entertainment holdings.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that 50 photos exist showing the two men squaring off, pulling at each other’s shirts and grappling before falling and wrestling on the ground before other men, possibly Mr Packer’s bodyguards, intervened.

It cited witnesses saying no pleasantries were exchanged when Mr Packer saw him, but rather a flurry of profanities broke out before the punches started flying, reported AFP.

The newspaper said the pair’s long-term friendship had soured after Mr Gyngell tried to intervene on behalf of Mr Packer’s second wife, Erica, from whom he announced his separation about six months ago.

Mr Packer is the son of the late media baron Kerry Packer.

Since his father’s death in 2005, Mr Packer has moved the family business away from its traditional media operations and focused on creating Crown, a worldwide gambling empire.

This article was published on May 6 in The New Paper.

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