Australian billionaire fined AU$500 over street fight

Friday 09 May 2014 15.23
James Packer was angry that a TV news van was parked outside his house
James Packer was angry that a TV news van was parked outside his house

One of Australia's richest men, billionaire James Packer, faced a fine of AU$500 (€338) along with television executive David Gyngell over a street brawl between them.

New South Wales state police issued two infringement notices over the tussle at Bondi Beach on Sunday that left Mr Packer, 46, with a black eye.

"Police today issued a 46-year-old man and a 48-year-old man with a Criminal Infringement Notice for offensive behaviour," police said in a statement.

"The penalty notice carries a fine of $500 if it goes uncontested by the recipient."

Mr Gyngell, the head of Australia's Nine Network, admitted earlier this week that he started the fight with the casino mogul, who is a childhood friend.

A Nine spokesman told Australian Associated Press that Mr Gyngell would pay the fine.

A photographer who had been hoping to see Mr Packer with rumoured new girlfriend, model Miranda Kerr, captured the two men trading punches and wrestling on the ground outside Mr Packer’s multi-million dollar Bondi waterfront home.

Images of the tussle, with Mr Gyngell shoeless and unshaven and Mr Packer dressed in sweat pants and t-shirt, were bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for a reported AU$250,000 and splashed across the group's newspapers.

The tabloid Sydney Daily Telegraph devoted nine pages to the incident in one edition, as police opened investigations into the fight, which was eventually broken up by Mr Packer's driver and two others.

Reports said Mr Packer and Mr Gyngell fell out after the billionaire split with wife Erica six months ago.

Mr Gyngell, who was best man at the wedding, reportedly told his friend he had made a mistake, which Mr Packer did not appreciate.

The issue escalated when Mr Packer complained about a Nine Network news van parked near his home, which he thought would attempt to film him.

Mr Gyngell said the truck being there was a coincidence but the fight broke out when he went to check.

The television executive accepted responsibility for starting the punch-up.

"Clearly had he not turned up at Packer's premises in an angry mood, then the confrontation would never have occurred," Nine said in a statement.

The son of late media baron Kerry Packer, James Packer is one of Australia's wealthiest people with a personal fortune estimated at AU$6 billion.

The family company used to own the Nine Network, but sold its final stake in 2008.

Since his father's death in 2005, Mr Packer has moved the business away from its traditional media operations and focused on creating Crown, a worldwide gambling empire.