Just five days before the Crown Resorts annual general meeting, James Packer has given an incredibly rare interview about his personal life and financial troubles.
Speaking to the The Weekend Australian, Mr Packer called his engagement to songbird Mariah Carey a “mistake” and revealed he held $5 billion in debt at Crown Casino and a private press holdings company just two years ago.
In the same week explosive allegations of pokies machine tampering were levelled against Crown Casino in federal Parliament by independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Mr Packer detailed his previous struggles with massive debt.
The casino mogul revealed he held more than $3 billion in debt at Crown and a $2.3 billion debt in his private company Consolidated Press Holdings in 2015.
“I was terrified,” Mr Packer told the newspaper.
“Then a year later I’ve got China falling apart, the Australian casino businesses missing budgets by big amounts, I’ve got Mariah breaking up with me and I’m thinking ‘f—‘.”
Crown Casino staff were arrested in China in October 2016 – the same month Mr Packer broke off his engagement with US singer-songwriter, Mariah Carey.
Mr Packer and Mariah Carey were set to be married on the island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia, but the groom-to-be called off the wedding.
Ms Carey reportedly kept her $US10 million engagement ring and was said to have requested a $US50 million settlement.
Mr Packer told The Weekend Australian his reasons for getting involved with the US singer and songwriter were “complicated”.
“I was at a low point in my personal life,” Mr Packer said.
“She was kind, exciting and fun. Mariah is a woman of substance. She is very bright. But it was a mistake for her and a mistake for me.”
Earlier this week Crown Casino had been accused of tampering with gaming machines in a damning whistleblower testimony tabled in federal Parliament.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie on Wednesday morning presented video evidence and allegations Crown had turned a blind eye to illicit drug use and domestic violence.
The testimony from three former staff at the James Packer-owned casino alleged Crown forced staff to “shave down” buttons on gaming machines to allow illegal continuous play, Mr Wilkie said.
Mr Packer was asked about the allegations in The Weekend Australian story, but referred the journalist to the Crown’s statement announced on Wednesday.
Crown denied any wrongdoing, telling the Australian Stock Exchange: “Crown Resorts Limited rejects the allegations made today under parliamentary privilege by Mr Andrew Wilkie MP.”
In spite of recent revelations of misconduct at Crown, the “cathartic” interview proved Mr Parker was not shying away from the allegations, returning to Australia from Argentina for the casino’s annual general meeting.
“Particularly in the context of the latest revelations floating around, it would be very easy to say, ‘I’m going to stay away’,” the paper’s Victorian Business Editor Damon Kitney told Sky News.
“I think the fact he’s prepared to ‘face the music’, if that’s the right term, sort of shows he’s going through a healing process and is perhaps at the end of that process.
“I’ve got the sense that this whole experience of talking about the past two years has actually been quite cathartic for him to get a few things off his chest and to move on.”
Mr Packer is set to return to Australia for the first time in two years to attend the annual general meeting of his company Crown Resorts in Melbourne on October 26.