Why Kerry Packer Would Still Be Successful Today

Though he has been dead for almost a decade, the legend of media mogul Kerry Packer, the risk-taking, larger-than-life billionaire business tycoon, still lives on today. The way he lived his life and ran his business should resonate with today’s business executives.

Kerry Packer was born 1937 into an already-successful media dynasty. His father, Frank Packer, controlled Australian Consolidated Press and Nine Network. All of this—an estimated net worth of $100 million—was passed on to Kerry upon his father’s death in 1974.

Packer established the World Series Cricket, but the interesting aspect of that story was how he developed the league. 

Along with other details, he managed to sign famous players from all over the world, many of them in secret.

Throughout his career, he also earned enormous profits through property development, leisure industries and more.

Years after Packer’s death at the age of 68, there are still many lessons that business leaders of today can learn from his life’s work.

When the easy road to success is blocked, don’t be afraid to forge your own path

Before he established World Series Cricket, Packer attempted to secure exclusive rights to Australian cricket matches for the Nine Network. The Australian Cricket Board (ACB), however, remained loyal to the ABC, which held the rights

This would have been the end of the road for many businessmen, but not Packer. Packer decided to start from scratch, building World Series Cricket from the ground up with accomplished players from around the world, luring them away from the Australian Cricket Board.

This was a bold move to say the least. It changed the face of cricket. It was no longer an amateur sport. It was now professional. The influence of World Series Cricket and Packer’s desire to overcome obstacles is still being felt today. He saw an opportunity, took a risk and bet on himself to succeed.

Don’t be afraid to take gambles

Packer loved to gamble, both in business and in life. And while gambling can sometimes be considered a bad habit, a healthy dose of risk-taking is imperative for any successful business strategy. At his death, Business Review Weekly estimated Packer’s net worth at $6.5 billion AUS—he had multiplied his father’s fortune several times over. He didn’t do that by playing it safe.

Packer didn’t take careless risks, and neither should you. But when you gamble in business, there will always be some uncertainty—and, often, the bigger the risk, the bigger the payoff.

Know when to seize the moment—and when to seize it again

In 1987, businessman Alan Bond offered Packer one billion dollars for Nine Network. It was estimated that this was twice its market value. Packer accepted the offer, increasing his personal wealth.

Then, three years later, when Bond’s business were crumbling, Packer bought the network back for a mere $250 million, restoring his empire at a huge profit to himself.

It’s important to think about more than yourself

In 1990, Packer experienced a near-fatal heart attack while attending a polo match in Sydney—he was dead for about six minutes. He was revived in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. While he was in hospital a doctor remarked to him that he was lucky to get the lone ambulance in Sydney that had a defibrillator fitted in it.

This astonished him! Why didn’t every ambulance in NSW have them? How many lives were being lost because they were not present? He then proceeded to purchase defibrillators for every ambulance in New South Wales—the devices came to be known as “Packerwhackers.”

This is just one example of Packer’s abundant generosity throughout his career. Though a ruthless businessman in many aspects, Packer understood the importance of giving back to his community. Aside from the intrinsic value of public service, it is much easier to gain the respect and trust of those around you if you are seen as willing to share your success and good fortune with your community.

Take what you get and make the most of it

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of Packer’s illustrious career was that he was not destined for the role he would become known for. His father’s empire should instead have gone to Packer’s older brother, Clyde. But Clyde and his father had a falling out before the elder Packer’s death. That meant that the Packer business fell instead into the younger Kerry’s hands.

Yet, though it was not his original destiny to be at the helm of this business, nobody would dispute that he made the most of his opportunity, far exceeding anything his father ever did or his son James has achieved.

Lessons from a legend

Kerry Packer, though far from a flawless man, was a brilliant businessman and leader. There are a number of lessons for executives to take from his life’s work.

Packer’s business dealings, penchant for calculated risk taking and an unwillingness to settle for the mediocre are just a few of his most admirable traits.

Kerry Packer left a legacy that will long be remembered. He inspired people. He was able to get the best work from his employees and business partners.

Those are qualities we can all admire and strive for in our own ventures.

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