From Atlantic City to Macau, the great man’s presence loomed large. His
untimely death, at 68, will have them donning the black armbands.
But high-rolling lifestyles catch up with you eventually and Packer is hardly
the first powerful man to expire before his time. Robert Holmes à Court, another
great Australian business icon (he was South African originally), died of a
heart attack in 1990 aged just 53. It fell to his widow, Janet, to pick up the
reins at Stoll Moss Theatres, the London theatre owner.
Let us not forget Christopher Skase and his charming wife, Pixie. This was
the man who fled multi-million pound debts in Australia and holed up in Majorca,
insisting that he was too ill to fly home to face charges. The Australians
obligingly offered to send a hospital ship to collect him, but Skase was having
none of it.
After a decade-long fight against extradition, Skase proved that he had been
telling the truth all along. He died of cancer in 2001, aged 53.
Happily, many of the old icons are still going strong, not least the
unsinkable Rupert Murdoch. He’ll probably outlive us all. And then there’s Alan
Bond, that other great Australian figure (he was actually born in Hammersmith,
but that didn’t stop him).
Bond, 67, who spent nearly four years in prison for asset-stripping and art
fraud, recently returned to Australia after five years in London. A five-year
directors’ ban lapsed last month, leaving him free to take up company
directorships once again. We haven’t heard the last of him.
Jon Ashworth is a freelance journalist
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