Hollywood remake: James Packer follows in dad Kerry’s footsteps with $450 million film deal

Hollywood remake: James Packer follows in dad Kerry’s footsteps with $450 million film deal - 2nd October 2013

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James Packer may have sold off the media empire established by his grandfather, Frank, and father, Kerry, but he hasn’t completely lost his dad’s affection for the bright lights and glamour of the screen.

The $450-million deal announced between Packer’s RatPac and Hollywood giant Warner Bros will see Packer help finance 75 films over four years.

RatPac, a joint venture between Packer and Hollywood director Brett Ratner, will join with a company called Dune Entertainment to finance Warner Bros’ slate of films.

Packer told The Australian Financial Review the deal fit in with his gaming interests and his push into Asia.

“The movie business has always had a love affair with casinos. Casinos love the movies. Television and film sell emotion. Casinos sell adrenaline. There are also commercial benefits,” he said on Tuesday.

“There is a globalisation play here. There is a real chance to grab the opportunity in China. In 10 years’ time, the Chinese box office will have overtaken the United States. I’d like to see my business interests spread out evenly across the US, Australia and China.”

Perhaps Packer can convince his new partners to back a new episode in the Back to the Future series, because there is an element of that about this move – Kerry Packer was also a Hollywood investor.

Back in 1994, Kerry emerged with a 25 per cent stake in Hollywood producer New Regency, run by industry veteran Arnon Milchan. Kerry sunk $165 million into the production house.

The investment was a successful one. In 2004, the Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited received a $182.4 million dividend from New Regency; given PBL posted a full-year net profit of $381 million in the 2002-03 financial year, this was no small windfall.

Kerry would make other forays into the movie business, most notably buying the Hoyts cinema chain through his own private company in 1999, in a $620-million deal.

James would go on to unwind both deals. Hoyts – which had been sold from the Packer’s private company to a joint venture between PBL and West Australian Newspapers in 2005 in a deal that reaped $347 million for the family and raised plenty of eyebrows – was eventually sold to private equity in 2007.

The stake in New Regency was sold back to Arnon Milchan in 2008 in a deal worth about $350 million, ostensibly to allow Packer to focus on gaming.

He’s certainly done that, but it’s clear that the silver screen isn’t completely out of James Packer’s blood.