The troubled billionaire businessman has stepped down from the board in the wake of relationship breakdowns, ill-fated business decisions, and his implication in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption scandal.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on March 21, 2018

Casino mogul James Packer has abruptly stepped down as a director of his company Crown Resorts, citing “personal reasons” in the brief statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Wednesday.

That was later defined by a spokesperson of Packer’s private investment arm Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH), who said the 50-year-old billionaire was “suffering from mental health issues”.

“At this time he intends to step back from all commitments,” the statement from CPH added.

John Alexander, Crown’s executive chairman, said, “We have appreciated James’ contribution to the board and respect his decision to step down from his role as a director at this time”.

It is not the first time Packer has resigned as a director of the gaming empire.

In December 2015, he relieved himself of the responsibility so he could “devote my energies to a number of key development projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Las Vegas, as well as Crown’s online platforms”.

There was also speculation at that time, that he intended on taking the company private.

He rejoined the board in August 2017, and remains the company’s largest shareholder.

CPH reduced its holding earlier this month, but still retains a 47% share.

A glimpse into Packer’s struggles

In an interview with The Weekend Australian Magazine in October last year, while living as a recluse at his Buenos Aires ranch, Packer detailed the business and relationship crises that capped a low point in his life.

He finalised his settlement with Mariah Carey that yearnegotiations with sister Gretel over their late father’s fortune took a toll, and Crown’s investment in China went sour.

He was also caught up in a corruption scandal involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Two years ago I was terrified. I had $2.3 billion of debt at CPH, over $3 billion of debt at Crown, I’d just appointed Rob [Rankin as chairman of Crown], Macau was falling over and Gretel was on my doorstep,” he told Damon Kitney at the time.

“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..k!’

Then, a year later, I’ve got China falling apart… I’ve got Mariah breaking up with me and I’m thinking, ‘F..k!’

“It has been a tumultuous four or five years for me. I think that turning 50 is like the end of a chapter. There are things that I am excited about, there are things that I regret.

“On the whole I lead an incredibly fortuitous life, and I remember that 90 per cent of the time. Ten per cent of the time I am probably guilty of forgetting it. And there are lots of things to look forward to in the future.”

The investigation into Netanyahu continues, but Packer voluntarily spoke with the Australian Federal Police as a witness and will not face charges.

Leaders are opening up about mental health battles

Last month, The CEO Magazine shone a light on Matt Berriman’s battle with bipolar disorder, which saw him step down as CEO of Unlockd.

The successful Australian entrepreneur decided to stay on as executive director of the tech startup, but relieved himself of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with being the chief executive.

In an open letter, Berriman implored others to follow his lead and share their battles publicly.

“Mental illness continues to be one of the most misunderstood and hidden epidemics of our generation,” he said.

“Like others before me, the decision to make my journey public, is another important step forward in helping engender greater awareness of mental illness.

“Hopefully in some incremental way it helps the community better understand that mental illness.”