Sibling rivalry: How Gretel is catching James in Packer fortunes

Since the Packer siblings, James and Gretel, finished their carve-up of their late father Kerry’s estate during the closing days of 2015, their financial fortunes in public companies look to have significantly diverged.

Based on their biggest listed investments, Gretel Packer’s net worth could have at least doubled. In contrast, if one takes the value of James Packer’s main asset – his stake in Crown – then the value of his investments has fallen.

Kerry Packer with his children James and Gretel.
Kerry Packer with his children James and Gretel.Credit:Trevor Dallen

In December five years ago Crown shares were trading at $12.46 against today’s price of $9.72 (Although Packer did manage to cash in a 10 per cent stake in Crown last year at $13 a share).

James Packer’s private company, CPH, released its accounts this week, showing it sustained a $400 million loss in the year to June 30, 2020.


It appears that most of this reversal in fortune over the year can be attributed to a fall in the value of Crown Resorts shares. In the previous year CPH earned about $70 million in profits.

However, it should be noted that in the year to June 30, 2020, Packer did receive an interim dividend from Crown.

The Packer estate divvy up was a protracted process but looks to have settled around Christmas in 2015. The details were not made public but some elements had to be disclosed to various stock exchanges.

Piecing this together with snippets of information that leaked and were never disputed by either party, one thing is clear – Gretel ended up with half of her brother’s stake in US real estate portal Zillow.

Based on the share price at the time from US exchange filings, Gretel got her shares at around $US26 a share. The $200 million value of that investment would today be valued at around $880 million.

While Gretel rode the sometimes bumpy fortunes of Zillow, her brother is said to have divested himself of the Zillow position at roughly $US26 per share – done through a block trade by UBS. In doing so he left a lot of money on the table.

At the time Packer was concerned with reducing his personal debt and had embarked on an asset sale program. Also back in late 2015, early 2016, James Packer had focused his investments on Crown – a strategy that seemed like a winner given Crown’s profit was powering along on the back of the growth in VIP gamblers coming in from China.

(As we know from evidence heard at the recent commission of inquiry into Crown, Packer had a particular interest in the booming China VIP market.)

But 10 months into 2016, Crown’s growth engine stalled when 19 of its China-based staff were arrested for gambling-related offences, most of whom were imprisoned.

Gretel Packer seems to have done well out of her investment in Zillow.
Gretel Packer seems to have done well out of her investment in Zillow.

Meanwhile part of Gretel Packer’s financial settlement was a $100 million parcel (about 8.6 million) Crown Resorts shares – which can be gleaned from ASX substantial shareholder announcements. She held the shares through a private company RPSCO Pty Ltd.

This company, of which Gretel Packer was the sole director, can no longer be found on the Crown list of major shareholders. Sources familiar with Gretel Packer’s financials say she sold the Crown stake years ago – well above the price at which they currently trade.

Five years ago the Packer split of the estate was referred to as an acrimonious affair with James Packer said to have been unhappy with the outcome.

In addition to the Crown and Zillow shares, Gretel ultimately ended up with 100 per cent of the family’s rural estate Ellerston (valued at the time at about $120 million), full ownership of the Packer boat the Artic P and cash of several hundred million dollars. All up the package was said to be worth a bit more than $1 billion at the time of the settlement.

A decent portion of the cash and the proceeds of Gretel’s Crown shares has reportedly been invested with funds manager Caledonia Investments. Caledonia’s chief investment office, Will Vicars (himself a billionaire), took the role of Gretel’s negotiator during the split of the estate. His counterpart on James Packer’s side was Matthew Grounds – the then head of investment bank UBS.

Caledonia funds have ridden some periods of extreme volatility but over five years performance has come in at around 16 per cent compound per annum. If one takes into account Caledonia’s flagship hedge fund and its co-investments, the fund is up 42 per cent this year to the end of October.

Five years ago the Packer split of the estate was referred to as an acrimonious affair with James Packer said to have been unhappy with the outcome.

Given the private nature of Gretel’s financial position, this analysis is not comprehensive. But piecing together known facts (and assumptions about money invested in Calendonia funds) Gretel Packer’s Forbes listing at $US2 billion worth could be quite conservative.

A spokesman for Gretel Packer declined to comment.

Meanwhile James Packer’s spokesperson cautioned that the CPH accounts released this week do not provide a comprehensive tally of all his investments. Several are owned through other CPH subsidiaries. However, James Packer’s main investment remains his now 36 per cent stake in Crown.

James Packer with a fortune estimated by Forbes to be $US3.4 billion is the wealthier sibling. But, at least based on her Zillow investment, his sister is catching up.

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