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James Packer just sold his stake in Crown Resorts for $1.76 billion. The question is; why?

To say James Packer is a wealthy man is an understatement.

Worth $5.3 billion AUD, the 51-year-old is a casino magnate arguably more well known for his string of complicated relationships (Miranda Kerr, Mariah Carey, Erica Packer; to name a few).

His name has been splashed across the tabloids for decades – he publicly punched a friend on Bondi Beach, and he had a mental breakdown that made headlines for weeks.

It’s been a hard few years for the businessman.

There’s whispers that his backing away from a huge investment in Sydney’s future – one he was originally working towards with gusto – is a bid to retreat into the shadows to lead a quieter, less stressful life.

Here is the untold story of James Packer as told to No Filter. Post continues after podcast.

Of all of his complicated relationships  – Sydney probably tops that list.

Packer grew up harbour side under the gaze of his equally famous father Kerry Packer who built the family wealth on multiple media empires.

For the past few years, Packer has barely returned home – preferring to gallivant in the US, Israel, Argentina (he has a ranch there) or out at sea on his mega mansion of a yacht.

He did have plans to return in a blaze of glory in 2021.

He was going to unveil a $2.2 billion Crown hotel and casino complex in Barangaroo, but he’s just sold almost half of his stake in Casino resorts.

A whopping $1.76 billion worth.

Kerry Packer
James' father Kerry Packer was an Australian media tycoon. He died in 2005 and at the time of his passing was the richest man in the country. Image: Getty.
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If you look at Packer's history, he has a knack for being able to pick up on inflection points in the market.

He sold out of the media 12 years ago - just at the peak of free to air TV valuations.

He then sold out of pay TV at the peak of its valuation.

So what's he planning? Why now? Is it just a sweet spot in the markets? Or is it something bigger?

The Financial Review thinks he's on his way to cutting ties with Australia and diversifying his fortune away from a heavy reliance on gaming.

He sold to Hong Kong based Melco Resorts and Entertainment which runs venues in Macau.

It's run by Lawrence Ho who said of his purchase as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, "I believe that Crown Sydney, much like Melco's Morpheus property, will create an architectural icon for the city, the country and the world."

Lawrence Ho Yau-lung, chairman of Melco Resort and Entertainment, poses for a picture at InterContinental Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui. 27SEP17 SCMP / Jonathan Wong
Packer sold to this man, Lawrence Ho. Image: Jonathan Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images.

Ho also signalled he would be willing to increase his stake in Crown. Does that mean there's plans for Packer to back away even more?

There's another vein to this sale, which appears to dig into the root of Packer's reasoning.

Those close to the billionaire say he's been disengaged from the whole Crown business for sometime.

"He definitely wants an easier life, and a less stressful life. There's no doubt about that," a colleague close to Packer told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Packer cited his mental health as his reasoning for stepping away from the Crown's board in 2018, a decision that shocked many.

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Days after he departed, he had checked into a psychiatric hospital in Boston.

A bubbling up of professional and personal turmoils in the form of his big sister's estrangement, his split from fiance Mariah Carey, the jailing of Crown employees in China and the collapse of his business in Macau all came to a head.

james packer mariah carey
James Packer's most recent relationship was with Mariah Carey to whom he was engaged. Image via Getty.

But it wasn't his first experience with depression and anxiety.

In fact at the time, he confided in friends that it was the third-most challenging period of his life.

His previous challenges came in the form of the collapse of One.Tel in 2001 and the impact of the global financial crisis on his empire in 2008, reports SMH

News of Packer seeking professional treatment came at the same time news broke that he begged his ex-wife Erica Baxter to take him back, as was reported by the Daily Telegraph.

That can't have helped a man in turmoil.

Packer was in Australia very briefly in February, it was his first appearance on home soil since his shock resignation and stint in hospital.

He was in and out quickly, barely leaving the airport before he was back off overseas to his new life.

So is he just wrapping things up back home in preparation for a new chapter?

Is it professional, or personal or both?

We guess only time will tell.

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